Jane Asher as Trish Platt in Alan Ayckburn's House and Garden stage plays. House takes place in the drawing room, and Garden in the grounds, of a large country house. Each play is self-contained (although each of course refers more or less obliquely to events in the other), and they may be attended in either order.
After performances in 1999 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, the plays were staged in 2000 at the Royal National Theatre in London with a cast including Jane Asher, David Haig and Sian Thomas.
They runned from 29th July 2000 until September 23rd 2000.
House and Garden are a diptych (or linked pair) of plays written by the English playwright Alan Ayckbourn, first performed on June 19 1999. They are designed to be staged simultaneously, with the same cast in adjacent auditoria.
Audiences will be encouraged to see both plays, which concern a would-be Tory MP's confused private life (House) set against the backdrop of preparations for a village fête (Garden).
The same cast of actors are required to run between the National Theatre's Lyttleton and Olivier stages, performing the interwoven plays simultaneously. When a character exits through the French windows on the set of House, they appear a couple of minutes later on the fake-grass scenery of Garden next door.
The two stage managers use a communication system to co-ordinate exits and entries, avoid near-misses, and ensure that the two productions run perfectly in synch. Demonstrating an impressive athleticism, actors take about two minutes - or 90 seconds at a dash - to move between the two stages.
The stages, both in the same building, are separated by three flights of stairs and several corridors. Characters must maintain the impression they have strolled through a door rather than having run through a maze of corridors.
In Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre, where the plays premièred, the two stages were much nearer to each other - a mere 35 seconds apart. Allowances for the time actors need to get between stages are written into the play.
Extra speeches and a device called the "emergency dog" allow whoever is on stage to play for time. Actress Alexandra Mathie explains: "The dog will bark and one has to respond in character to the dog in some way. So we're discovering our attitudes to dogs as well."
This nightmare of synchronisation - the plays must begin and end simultaneously - extends Ayckbourn's experiments with time and space.
As is typical of his work, Ayckbourn portrays the mostly bittersweet relationships between more or less unhappy, upper-middle-class people. The title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the magazine House & Garden, in which country houses and gardens are often portrayed as idyllic, peaceful places.
Photos 1 & 2) 1999 - Jane Asher in rehearshals for “House” and “Garden” plays, with the director Alan Ayckbourn. http://www.lebrecht.co.uk
Photo 3) Jane Asher, a major character in House, has a three-minute role in Garden. BBC.
Photo 4) From the net. Coment below if it's yours and I'll give you full credit.
Photos 5 to 13) Jane with Malcolm Sinclair (as Gavin Ryng-Mayne), Charlie Hayes (as Sally Platt), Zabou Brightman (as Lucille Cadeau) and David Haig (as Teddy Platt). photostage.co.uk