The Sparrow (play)

"The Sparrow" is a 1967 play by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn. It has since been withdrawn from production by Ayckbourn.

An unassuming bus conductor, Ed, arrives at his London flat with Evie, both drenched by a storm, having met at a dance hall. Due to the storm, Ed convinces Evie to reluctantly spend the night in his bed, while he sleeps in the lounge. However, Ed’s cold and calculating flatmate, Tony, has other ideas and Evie is forced to sleep in the bath.The next day, Tony persuades Evie – through aggression and flattery – to become the secretary for his dubious business. Tony’s former wife, Julia, is highly sceptical of the relationship and Ed becomes increasingly unhappy as Evie’s professional work gets in the way of their relationship.It soon becomes clear Tony has no business of his own and is using Evie to get back at Ed and Julia, who had a one-night stand, following one of Julia’s many arguments with Tony.Matters come to a head when Tony returns one evening, obviously back together with Julia. However, the couple have a huge row in the kitchen and Ed and Evie escape the flat, no longer Tony’s pawns, vowing never to get married.

"The Sparrow" is the last of Alan Ayckbourn’s early plays to be neither published nor performed again since its first production. Although Alan is not as dismissive of it as the very early plays, there is a sense that it is a disappointing follow-up to its immediate predecessor "Relatively Speaking" and its successor "How The Other Half Loves".The play was performed during the summer of 1967 at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, while Alan was working as a radio drama producer for the BBC. Stephen Joseph was, by this stage, terminally ill with cancer and the Library Theatre was struggling to survive. Stephen had abandoned the Library Theatre at the end of the 1965 season and the 1966 season had been an amateur season, organised by Ken Boden. He persuaded Stephen to let professional productions resume in 1967, but only four plays were produced and it was a shaky start for the revived company.The play was originally entitled "The Silver Collection" and this title featured in early discussions about the season and in the earliest advertising for the season. However, Alan disliked the title and it was altered to "The Sparrow"; although in a programme note from 1968, Alan expresses dissatisfaction even with this title.Despite the problems with the company and the title, the play did feature two notable actors in the shape of Robert Powell and John Nettles, both of whom would go on to considerable success on screen and stage."The Sparrow" was performed for just three weeks during the summer repertory and has never been produced since. The "Scarborough Evening News" noted the West End producer Peter Bridge visited the show, but obviously did not choose to option the play.Alan has said in subsequent years, he wonders how "The Sparrow" would have developed as a play had it been given more opportunity, but it was soon forgotten amidst the success of the West End production of "Relatively Speaking" in the same year and the consequent astonishing success of the plays which followed it. Although largely forgotten, many of Alan’s dominant themes are clearly on display and it offers a glimpse of a darker side to Ayckbourn’s writing which would not appear again for several years to come.

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