My Wonderful Day: BackgroundMy Wonderful Day is Alan Ayckbourn's 73rd play and premiered in 2009; the year of both the 50th anniversary of the world premiere of the playwright's first play The Square Cat at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, as well as his 70th birthday.
Alan completed the first draft of My Wonderful Day on 27 March 2009 and announced it to the company of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, at an informal event on that day marking his stepping down as the Artistic Director of the venue (although it was announced with a slightly different title, see Behind The Scenes).
Elements of My Wonderful Day predate the play though to an earlier unused idea for a play called Life Of Riley (which, confusingly, was actually written after My Wonderful Day and is Alan Ayckbourn's 74th play). His major inspiration for writing My Wonderful Day though was - arguably for the first time - autobiographical, drawing from his own experiences as a child. Alan has spoken candidly how the play is semi-autobiographical and draws on his childhood memories of accompanying his mother to meetings and social gatherings, where - ignored - he would quietly watch and absorb everything. Prior to My Wonderful Day, the playwright has denied that any of his plays were autobiographical and has frequently rebutted suggestions that Woman In Mind was inspired by his relationship with his mother.
On 26 June, the Stephen Joseph Theatre company was informed My Wonderful Day would immediately transfer after its premiere to New York. This marked the first time an Ayckbourn play has transferred directly to America following its world premiere and the first time the very first professional production of an Ayckbourn play following its premiere has taken place in the USA. This was publicly announced by Variety on 26 July with it being revealed the play would be presented as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival at the 59E59 Theatres, New York, between 11 November and 13 December, 2009. Alan had previously toured the SJT company to the festival with tremendous success with his productions of Private Fears In Public Places in 2005 and Intimate Exchanges in 2007.
My Wonderful Day opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 8 October 2009 with its official premiere on 13 October. This marked Alan's first world premiere at the venue since stepping down as Artistic Director. The one act play was performed without an interval and received predominantly excellent reviews. The play's transfer to New York was equally well-received with notably excellent reviews from the New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press. Once again, as had previously occurred with Alan's prior visits to the Brits Off Broadway festival, the play broke box office records at the 59E59 Theaters and the production featured in several best theatre of 2009 lists. In both the UK and America, the 28 year-old actress Ayesha Antoine was singled out for unanimous praise as nine-year old Winnie. She was nominated for Outstanding Actress in the prestigious American Drama Desk Awards (with the production also receiving an Outstanding Play nomination) and she was also the recipient of the 2010 TMA Award for Best Supporting Performance In A Play for her role as Winnie.
My Wonderful Day is the first Ayckbourn play to be written specifically for a black character in the shape of nine year old Winnie (in fact, it's written for two black characters, Winnie and her mother, Laverne). Contrary to the impression given by some articles, this was not the first time a black actor had appeared in the world premiere of an Ayckbourn play though as both Drowning On Dry Land and Private Fears In Public Places featured the black actress Billie-Claire Wright in the 2004 premieres at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Significantly, it is also the first time a child has played a lead role in one of the 'adult' plays (obviously they have featured heavily in the family plays). Prior to My Wonderful Day, children are generally heard but not seen in Alan's plays. In My Wonderful Day, Winnie is seen but generally not heard!
In 2010, My Wonderful Day embarked on a three month UK tour with the original company directed by Alan Ayckbourn and following its initial success in New York, it was quickly picked up for production by regional theatre companies in North America; it has continued to prove popular there and has received far more productions in the USA than in the UK. Samuel French published the play in March 2011, when it was also made available for amateur production in the UK. Faber also published it as part of the collection Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 5 in 2011.
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.