Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th play Truth Will Out mothballed as SJT takes Coronavirus measures for summer season

Sir Alan Ayckbourn: Summer 2020 premiere and revival cancelled at the SJT, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

THE world premiere of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th full-length play, Truth Will Out, will not go ahead this summer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

Nor will his revival of his 1976 garage-and-garden dark comedy of four birthdays, Just Between Ourselves, both productions scuppered by the Coronavirus crisis that has led to the SJT being closed.

Booked into the summer repertory season to run between August 20 and October 3, Truth Will Out was written by 80-year-old Ayckbourn in late-2019 as a satire on family, relationships, politics and the state of the nation.

“Everyone has secrets,” says the tantalising synopsis in the SJT summer-season brochure. “Certainly, former shop steward George, his right-wing MP daughter Janet, investigative journalist Peggy, and senior civil servant Sefton, do.

Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director and joint chief executive Paul Robinson

“All it’s going to take is one tech-savvy teenager with a mind of his own and time on his hands to bring their worlds tumbling down – and maybe everyone else’s along with them. A storm is brewing.”

When that storm will now break cannot be forecast. Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website states: “It is not known what the future holds for Truth Will Out…”, but the truth will out on its path forward in due course.

Ayckbourn’s website also reveals he had written another play, Just Mercy, earlier in 2019 for his 2020 premiere before turning his attention to Truth Will Out instead. He still hopes Just Mercy “will be produced at some point in the future”.

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the world, joint chief executives Caroline Routh and Paul Robinson said today: “Like everyone else, we are in uncharted territory, but our current plans are based on probably being closed for most of the planned summer season, which means we’ll no longer be presenting Just Between Ourselves, The Ladykillers or Truth Will Out this year.”

Matthew Wilson and Nicola Stephenson in Hull Truck Theatre and the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s co-production of Two, directed by Hull Truck artistic director Mark Babych

Artistic director Robinson’s production of Father Ted and Black Books writer Graham Linehan’s  stage adaptation of the 1955 Ealing comedy The Ladykillers would have run from July 9 to August 15, with its story of the sweetest of sweet little old ladies, alone at home but for a parrot with a mystery illness, at the mercy of a ruthless gang of criminal misfits.

The SJT is making plans to be “up and running again as quickly as possible once it’s able to”.

“We are already thinking about what might be possible should restrictions start to lift earlier than expected,” say Routh and Robinson. “We are extremely lucky in that we have a couple of shows which are ready, or almost ready, to go.

“Jim Cartwright’s Two, our co-production with Hull Truck Theatre, had already opened there, so can be on our stage at relatively short notice, while Little Red Riding Hood, which was due to fill our Easter slot for families next month, is cast and the set is nearly complete – we just need a couple of weeks’ rehearsal.”

Charlotte Brooke: one of the cast members for the SJT OutReach production of Little Red Riding Hood

Adapted by Saviour Pirotta, Cheryl Govan’s SJT OutReach production of this fabled story of not judging a book by its cover, or a wolf by its teeth, features a cast of Charlotte Brooke, Marcquelle Ward, Nicola Holliday and Charlotte Oliver, who were to have taken to The McCarthy stage from April 7 to 11.

Routh and Robinson continue: “While we couldn’t, of course, see an instant return to normal, we could start up our film programme again, schedule some pieces of visiting theatre, or stage a rehearsed reading or two, all of which will bring our building back to life quite quickly.”

The SJT’s box-office team is being kept busy, working remotely to contact those who have booked tickets for the upcoming spring and summer seasons.

Routh and Robinson say: “We’ve already contacted all those who’d booked tickets for shows and films during our initial week-long closure, and we were amazed by how many of them refused a refund, preferring instead to donate the cost of their tickets or credit their account.

The new message on the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s former Odeon cinema frontage after the Coronavirus shutdown

“It’s so touching to see how many people are showing faith in our future and are keen to support us – our heartfelt thanks to all of them.

“We aim to remain an essential part of the wider community in the borough of Scarborough throughout this period, and really look forward to welcoming you all back when our doors re-open.”

The SJT is closed to the public, but until further notice the box office will be accepting phone and email enquiries from noon to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays, on 01723 370541 or at

The SJT will be posting regular updates on its website and social media channels: @thesjt.