A Small Family Business: Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes offers a glimpse at some rarely known facts regarding the writing of Alan Ayckbourn's plays with material drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York and the playwright's personal archive.
  • A Small Family Business was originally titled Take It Or Leave It during negotiations with the National Theatre. However, this was only ever intended to be a temporary title and the actual title was in place by the time Alan Ayckbourn finished writing the play in April 1986.
  • The play's two-storey 'dollhouse' staging was conceived primarily as a way of dealing with the vast size of the Oliver's stage at the National Theatre. As Alan Ayckbourn noted, his solution was to section off the stage by creating a house with different acting areas (the rooms) where action could take place simultaneously.
  • During previews for A Small Family Business, Alan was rehearsing with the company a day or two prior to the press night when the lead actor Michael Gambon tripped over a backstage cable. Initially everyone thought it was only a minor incident but having insisted on performing in that night's preview, Alan watched aghast as it became obvious just how much pain the actor was in. Despite this, Gambon intended to keep on performing until Alan persuaded him to rest up and brought in the understudy Allan Mitchell to cover him, which included performing the role on the scheduled press night on 21 May 1987. Deciding it was unfair to both Gambon, Mitchell and the company - and even to himself and the play, given he had written it with Gambon in mind - Alan took the decision that the press night had to be moved back to allow the play to be seen as intended with Gambon as Jack McCracken.
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.