Ayckbourn wrote his first play at prep school when he was about 10. At Haileybury, he toured Europe and America with the school Shakespeare. He left school at 17 to go straight into the theatre with an introduction to Sir Donald Wolfit by his French master, and joined him on tour as an assistant stage-manager and actor.
By 1957, Ayckbourn was acting with director Stephen Joseph at Scarborough. In 1959 he played Stanley, directed by Harold Pinter, in the second production of Pinter's The Birthday Party.
He has written and produced some sixty plays in Scarborough and London and is the artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Almost all of his plays receive their first performance at this theatre. More than 25 have subsequently been produced in the West End, at the Royal National Theatre or by the RSC since his first hit Relatively Speaking[?] opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1967.
Major successes include Absurd Person Singular[?], The Norman Conquests[?], Bedroom Farce[?], Just Between Ourselves[?], A Chorus Of Disapproval[?], Woman In Mind[?], A Small Family Business[?], Man Of The Moment[?] and House & Garden[?]. His plays have won numerous awards - including seven London Evening Standard Awards. They have been translated into over 30 languages and are performed on stage and television throughout the world.
Ayckbourn plays have also been filmed in French and English. Four of his plays have been seen on Broadway attracting two Tony nominations. In 1991, he received a Dramalogue Critics Award for his play Henceforward...[?].
Although his plays have received major West End productions almost from the beginning of his writing career, and hence have been reviewed in British newspapers, Ayckbourn's work was for years routinely dismissed as being too slight for serious study. Recently scholars have begun to view Ayckbourn as an important commentator on the lifestyles of the British suburban middle-class and as a stylistic innovator, experimenting with theatrical styles within the boundaries set by popular tastes.
1956-57 Stage manager and actor, Donald Wolfit's company, in Edinburgh, Worthing, Leatherhead, Scarborough, and Oxford
1957-62 Actor and stage manager, Stephen Joseph Theatre-in-the-Round, Scarborough, Yorkshire
1962-64 Associate director, Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
1964-70 Drama producer, BBC Radio, Leeds
Since 1970 Artistic director, Stephen Joseph Theatre-in-the-Round
1986-88 Associate director, National Theatre, London
1991-2 Professor of contemporary theatre, Oxford University
Evening Standard award, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990
Olivier award, 1985
Plays and Players award, 1987
D.Litt.: University of Hull, Yorkshire, 1981
D.Litt.: University of Keele, Staffordshire, 1987
D.Litt.: University of Leeds, 1987
C.B.E. (Commander, Order of the British Empire), 1987