Better Off Dead: History

Better Off Dead will be Alan Ayckbourn's 82nd play and, unusually, it was announced by the playwright more than a year in advance of its world premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2018.
Behind The Scenes: Wives or Detectives?
Within The Times interview with Dominic Maxwell on 22 July 2017, mention is made of
Better Off Dead replacing A Case Of Missing Detectives. This is not an alternative title for the never to be produced A Case Of Missing Wives, but was an error on the part of The Times. Unfortunately, given websites such as Wikipedia seem to enjoy claiming unimpeachable veracity from newspaper websites, it is necessary to make clear that there has never been a play called A Case Of Missing Detectives.
The play was confirmed in an interview with Alan Ayckbourn in The Times in July 2017, two months prior to the world premiere of his 81st play, A Brief History Of Women. The interview also conflated the play with the creation of an unproduced work, A Case Of Missing Wives - which had actually been his intended 81st play.

In October 2016, Alan Ayckbourn wrote
A Case Of Missing Wives - a police procedural set in the fictional town of Dreadcliff in Yorkshire - but was unhappy with it and wrote another play, A Brief History Of Women, before returning to A Case Of Missing Wives and revising it to his satisfaction. Both plays were then offered to the Stephen Joseph Theatre's Artistic Director Paul Robinson as potentially Alan's 81st play to be premiered during the SJT's 2017 summer season; Paul chose A Brief History Of Women.

There was then some expectation that
A Case Of Missing Wives might become his 82nd play to be premiered during the 2018 season at the SJT, but during Spring 2017 Alan wrote another new play, Better Off Dead, which recycled and renamed two of the police characters from A Case Of Missing Wives, but within a completely different plot. He later acknowledged that A Case Of Missing Wives would be shelved and probably never produced.

Better Off Dead was confirmed as his 82nd play to be premiered during 2018 at the SJT in his interview with The Times along with the intriguing tease that the play is kicked off by a writer who reads his own obituary. In later interviews, the playwright revealed the central character is a reclusive, slightly grumpy and prolific writer based in Yorkshire, who writes in a shed in his garden; Alan would rebut suggestions it was autobiographical whilst acknowledging there are similarities between the author and himself - as well as many other writers.

The first draft of
Better Off Dead was completed in June 2017 and it was announced in December 2017 the play would run at the Stephen Joseph Theatre from 6 September to 6 October 2018, directed by Alan Ayckbourn in repertoire with the playwright's 1978 play Joking Apart. The play is scheduled to tour during autumn 2018.

Further details to follow…

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.