Alan Ayckbourn's play is about a very ordinary teenager called Lucy. With her father glued to the cowboys on the telly, her mother preoccupied with neighbourly gossip and her brother enclosed in his ear-phones, no one wants to know about her place in the school swimming team. So Lucy revives her childhood fantasy friend, Zara, setting a place for her at the very ordinary tea table. This time Zara materializes, bringing with her an idealized father and brother, and showing Lucy how to make her real family vanish. The moral of this cautionary tale is carefully spelt out - that when you get what you want it's not what you wanted - as Lucy's dream family turns out to be a nightmare. The play is supposedly for children of seven upwards, but there's a message here for parents, too, about listening to kids.
Alan Ayckbourn was born in London in 1939 to a violinist father and a mother who was a writer. He left school at seventeen with two 'A' levels and went straight into the theatre. Two years in regional theatre as an actor and stage manager led in 1959 to the writing of his first play, The Square Cat, for Scarborough's Theatre in the Round at the instigation of his then employer and subsequent mentor, Stephen Joseph. Some 75 plays later, his work has been translated into over 35 languages, is performed on stage and television throughout the world and has won countless awards. There have been English and French screen adaptations, the most notable being Alain Resnais' fine film of Private Fears in Public Places.
Major successes include Relatively Speaking, How the Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular, Bedroom Farce, A Chorus of Disapproval, The Norman Conquests, A Small Family Business, Henceforward . . ., Comic Potential, Things We Do For Love, and Life of Riley. Surprises was first presented at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and subsequently at the the Minerva Theatre, Chichester in 2012.
In 2009, he retired as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, where almost all his plays have been and continue to be first staged, after 37 years in the post. Knighted in 1997 for services to the theatre, he received the 2010 Critics' Circle Award for Services to the Arts and became the first British playwright to receive both Olivier and Tony Special Lifetime Achievement Awards.