Alan Ayckbourn’s 87th play Family Album at New Vic Theatre

Following its premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, Alan Ayckbourn’s latest play Family Album has arrived at the New Vic Theatre, in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Written during the Coronavirus pandemic, the time-bending production is the playwright’s 87th piece of work – a marvellous achievement for a man of 83 years.

Family Album chronicles the trials, tribulations and temptations of three generations of one family across 70 years in the same home. All of the action occurs in the perimeter of the family lounge, with intelligent staging, sound and lighting allowing the audience to keep track of where exactly in the timeline we are.

We’re first introduced to housewife Peggy and RAF veteran John as they proudly move into the first home they can really call their own. John, played by Antony Eden, is your typical chauvinist who thinks a woman’s place is in the kitchen and that money shouldn’t be ‘wasted’ on daughter’s – university is for boys, after all. Meanwhile Peggy – portrayed by Georgia Burnell – is a dedicated wife and  doting mother, advocating for her children, Dickie and Sandie, but also keen to keep her bad-tempered husband happy. 

Tony Bartholomew

Part-way through a conversation, the kitchen door swings open and we meet Frances Marshall’s Sandie – only 40 years later in 1992 – orchestrating her 10-year-old daughter’s birthday party without her AWOL husband. It was at this point that I discovered just how Alan would play with these seven decades, setting parts of the play in 1952, 1992 and a further 30 years on in 2022. 

The edges of this upper middle class living room switch from turquoise to beige to red as mothers and daughters pass like ships in the night – or ghosts in the lounge.

Tony Bartholomew

Alan Ayckbourn said: “My inspiration for Family Album was a programme on BBC4 called A House Through Time, a fascinating piece of social history. I thought. I could do this on a smaller scale – I didn’t want to go back centuries, so I started within my lifetime, in the 1950s. 

“So, we have three time periods layered on top of each other happening simultaneously in the same house, following a family from the grandparents in 1952, to the children in 1992 and then the grandchildren today. For me it’s new: I’ve used time so much – I’ve run it backwards and forwards, and I’ve run it sideways, and I’ve occasionally run it forwards and backwards simultaneously and at different speeds, but never in this way.”

A prime example of Alan’s clever use of time would be in The Girl Next Door, which compared life in a 2020 lockdown with that of the World War, or Absurd Person Singular set over three Christmas parties. This, however, was a much different experience.

In the 90s, Sandie becomes an overworked single-mother after off-stage Jerry leaves her for a Welsh drama teacher. She suffers greatly with her mental health, desperate for someone to talk to, but Dickie – now a QC – doesn’t pick up the phone and I suspect Peggy, now in her golden years, is suffering with Alzheimer’s or similar. 

Tony Bartholomew

Come 2022, Alison, played by Elizabeth Boag, is desperate to escape the family home with her partner Jess (Tanya-Loretta Dee), having somewhat unwillingly inherited it. The unpleasant memories of Ali’s last 40 years in the house – the wrath of her grandfather and watching her mum’s mental health deteriorate as her absent father leaves for good – means she can’t wait to abandon the house to start fresh in her same-sex marriage and CGI graphic designer career.

A special mention must go to the comical Chuckle-brother style removal men, who we first meet in 1952 moving a settee back and forth into just the right position, before moving it back out in 2022, where it’s destined for the tip.

Tony Bartholomew

The performances from the cast were outstanding, engaging and emotional – particularly scenes between Sandie and Peggy, both blissfully unaware of each other’s presence. 

Family Album takes a look over the last 70 years during the New Elizabethan age, exploring how views on homelife, women and work have changed, offering a thought provoking and intelligent production that transforms the ordinary and often mundane normalcy of everyday life into an exploration of human behaviour you can’t help be intrigued by. 

You can catch alan Ayckbourn’s Family Album at the New Vic until Saturday, October 22 at the Staffordshire theatre celebrates its 60th anniversary. Tickets are on sale now, priced from £18.50 – £27.50. For more details and to book, call the Box Office on 01782 717 962 or visit

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