Alan Ayckbourn’s brand new play, SURPRISES, which he also directs, visits the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 11 February to Saturday 16 February.  Following its world premiere at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, the original cast of Ayesha Antoine, Bill Champion, Laura Doddington, Sarah Parks, Ben Porter and Richard Stacey reprise their roles in Surprises for the first national tour.


“intriguing, and refreshingly different” – The Sunday Times


Alan Ayckbourn’s thought-provoking, comic drama has its head in the future and its heart in the past.  From parental plots and youthful rebellion to middle-aged marital disillusion, Surprises explores love stories yet to happen in a future filled with surprises. Spanning 50 years, this tightly plotted, time-travelling production takes a humorous and poignant look at the implications for romance in a world where people live on long beyond current expectations. But can love hold true when it’s possible to live for 200 years? And in a world where the future can be visited, is it better not to know what is coming next?


“Ayckbourn’s allegorical science fiction delivers serious fun” – The Observer

Alan Ayckbourn says: “Surprises is essentially several love stories but love stories that have a spin on them. It’s science fiction but used as an allegory – as most good sci-fi is – to reflect what’s happening today. It’s about longevity. The chances of people living longer and longer as the centuries go by are increasingly plausible and certainly quite interesting dramatically.”


This is the latest in a succession of new plays from Britain’s most popular living playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, who also directs the world premiere production. Co-produced with Chichester Festival Theatre as part of the London 2012 Festival, Ayckbourn’s 76th play received its world premiere in Scarborough last July, before transferring to Chichester ahead of its first UK tour. The six-strong company performs thirteen different roles in Surprises on a futuristic set designed by Michael Holt.


“marvellous performances” – The Times


Bill Champion and Ben Porter in Surprises by Alan Ayckbourn - Photo by Robert Day 1Ben Porter’s many stage credits include The Heiress and The Invention of Love at the National Theatre, and What the Butler Saw and Becket in the West End. The Heiress and Becket both played the Theatre Royal Bath too, in 2000 and 1991 respectively.  He has also performed at the Theatre Royal in Alan Ayckbourn’s Life of Riley and Communicating Doors (2011) and Bedroom Farce (2007); Losing Louis (2006) and The Woman in Black (2008), reprising his West End role. Ben’s television work includes Manchild, The Bill and Casualty.


Laura Doddington in Surprises by Alan Ayckbourn - Photo by Robert DayLaura Doddington has previously performed at the Theatre Royal Bath in three of Ayckbourn’s plays, Communicating Doors and Life of Riley in 2011, and Improbable Fiction in 2006.  She has played the Stephen Joseph Theatre many times, and her television work includes The Bill, Doctors, Prime Suspect VII and EastEnders.


Ayesha Antoine delighted Bath audiences with her extraordinary performance in Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day in 2010, when she played the role of a child. On television, she appeared as Rachel Baptiste in twenty-two episodes of Holby City, as well as performing in Doctor Who, Mouth to Mouth and playing Poppy Silver in thirty-three episodes of Grange Hill.

Richard Stacey in Surprises by Alan Ayckbourn - Photo by Robert DayRichard Stacey has previously performed at the Theatre Royal in Alan Ayckbourn’s Life and Beth in 2009, A Trip to Scarborough in 2008, If I Were You in February 2007, How The Other Half Loves for The Peter Hall Company in August 2007; and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for The Peter Hall Company 2005. His television work includes Vera, The Return of Tracey Beaker and Peak Practice.


Bill Champion has performed in many of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays, including Season’s Greetings in 2004 and Damsels in Distress in 2002 at the Theatre Royal Bath. His West End stage credits include Calendar Girls, Fame and Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind and Comic Potential. His television credits include Rockcliffe’s Babies, Holby City, Wallis & Edward, The Bill and Birds of a FeatherSarah Parks has worked extensively with Hull Truck and Northern Broadsides.  Her television credits include Scott & Bailey, Shameless, Coronation Street and Ruth Rendell Mysteries.


Alan Ayckbourn is one of the world’s greatest living playwrights. He has written more than twice as many plays as Shakespeare.  In 2010 he was presented with a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in New York. He has directed more than 300 productions. Recent hit revivals of his work include Matthew Warchus’ acclaimed Old Vic staging of The Norman Conquests; the National Theatre’s 2010 production of Season’s Greetings and most recently in the West End, Absent Friends directed by Jeremy Herrin and A Chorus of Disapproval directed by Trevor Nunn. May 2013 sees Wyndham’s house a major revival of Relatively Speaking directed by Lindsay Posner and starring Felicity Kendal, which returns to Bath this April immediately prior to the West End. Between 1972 and 2009, he was the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, where he continues to be a guest director.


SURPRISES appears at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 11 February to Saturday 16 February.  To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Box Office on 01225 448844 or visit