First look: Alan Ayckbourn’s The Girl Next Door at Stephen Joseph Theatre

Last Updated on 4 June 2021 by Showcall Editorial Team

First look at Alan Ayckbourn’s 85th play, The Girl Next Door, which begins its run at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre tonight

Girl Next Door Ayckbourn
Naomi Petersen and Bill Champion. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

Production images have been released for Alan Ayckbourn’s latest play, The Girl Next Door, which begins its run at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre tonight.

It is the 85th play written by Ayckbourn who is also directing this world premiere. It can be seen at the Scarborough theatre until 3 July, with opening night on 8 June.

To ensure no performances have to be cancelled due to Covid-19, the theatre has created two sets of casts who are isolating within separate bubbles.

Girl Next Door Ayckbourn
Bill Champion, Naomi Petersen and Linford Johnson. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

The bulk of the shows will be performed by Bill Champion, Linford Johnson, Alexandra Mathie and Naomi Petersen who will make up a bubble with their stage management team.

But if anyone in that bubble start to show Covid symptoms, the entire group will have to self-isolate – and a second bubble comprising Georgia Burnell, Michael Hobbs, Tayla Kovacevic-Ebong, Eliza McClelland and a second stage management team will be ready to step in. They will also perform the show on a number of dates throughout the run.

The Girl Next Door sees veteran actor Rob Hathaway stuck at home during the summer of 2020 with only his sensible older sister for company. Rob has little to do but relive his glory days when, as the star of the nation’s favourite TV period drama National Fire Service, he ruled the roost as George “Tiger” Jennings: wartime hero and living legend among firefighters.

Then one day Rob spots a stranger hanging out the washing in the adjoining garden. But the neighbours haven’t been around for months so who is the mysterious girl next door? And why is she wearing 1940s clothing?

Girl Next Door Scarborough
Bill Champion and Naomi Petersen. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

Ayckbourn said: “I was born in 1939 so my earliest memories are of a sort of lockdown: of crowding into Anderson shelters or subway stations, of sleeping in deckchairs or on my mother’s lap. Things have come full circle for me.

“The Girl Next Door is an affirmation of love across the generations. I hope it’s positive and hopeful for those today crawling out of their metaphorical Anderson shelters blinking into the light.”

The production images, photographed by Tony Bartholomew, feature the main cast of Bill Champion, Linford Johnson, Alexandra Mathie and Naomi Petersen.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre’s artistic director, Paul Robinson, added: “The safety of our audiences, staff and visiting freelancers, including the actors, is paramount. For this first show of 2021, which opens before the planned final step of the government’s roadmap on 21 June, we thought it was important to have a second team on hand in case of any problems.”

The Girl Next Door Ayckbourn
Bill Champion and Alexandra Mathie. Photo: Tony Bartholomew

About Mark Ludmon 318 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre, hospitality and drinks after starting in regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He is a former panellist for the Olivier Awards. He tweets at @MarkLudmon.