Theatre Myths - Supernatural Trilogies

This section of the website features articles by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd concerning historical myths about the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

The Myth: Alan Ayckbourn has written a trilogy of supernatural plays entitled Things That Go Bump.

True or False: False.

The Explanation: This is a prime example of the dangers of relying on Wikipedia for information - and flaws within Wikipedia itself - as despite being told numerous times this is no such thing as the Things That Go Bump trilogy there has been a refusal to alter this information and it continues to promote factually incorrect and inaccurate material.

Let us state unequivocally: There is no trilogy by Alan Ayckbourn called
Things That Go Bump nor has he written a trilogy of supernatural plays. Alan Ayckbourn considers he has written just two trilogies, The Norman Conquests and Damsels In Distress.

The idea that there is a third supernatural trilogy goes back to 1994 when Alan Ayckbourn wrote
Haunting Julia, a supernatural thriller which was staged at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round and featured a cast of three men. Some years later, Alan Ayckbourn decided to write another thriller with supernatural suggestions called Snake In The Grass in 2002 which featured a cast of three women. The two plays are entirely unrelated though aside from a theme of the relationship between parents and their children.

In 2008, Alan Ayckbourn's final summer season as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre was announced. The season centred on three plays,
Haunting Julia, Snake In The Grass and his new play, Life & Beth. The playwright had decided it might be a fun idea to revive his two early plays and then write a third play which united the all male and all female casts of the other plays. This would also be a supernatural play, but which had absolutely no links to the other plays other than featuring the same number of actors as the combined casts of Haunting Julia and Snake In The Grass. At no point did Alan Ayckbourn ever suggest or say this was a trilogy of plays.

To promote the season, the marketing department at the Stephen Joseph Theatre launched the season as the
Things That Go Bump season - given all three plays had a supernatural angle to them. This advertising was specific to the 2008 summer season of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and was never intended to be a trilogy name for the three plays. Again, Alan Ayckbourn never referred to the plays as the Things That Go Bump trilogy - it was purely the name used for advertising the summer season.

However, during the season several reports - most notably one in The Independent - referred to the plays as the
Things That Go Bump trilogy. This was factually incorrect but was never corrected at the time. Subsequently, Wikipedia added Things That Go Bump as an Alan Ayckbourn trilogy to the website, perpetuating a myth.

Ironically, Wikipedia has refused to correct this as despite being told by representatives of the playwright this is incorrect, the website refers to the fact that The Independent used the title and that has greater weight that the playwright's own opinion and the actual facts. This is also despite the fact the original report in The Independent was patently incorrect and featured a number of significant factual inaccuracies.

So it is a myth - or boils down to whether you believe Alan Ayckbourn or Wikipedia about the playwright's intentions. As far as Alan Ayckbourn is concerned, he has not written a trilogy of supernatural plays; he does not consider
Haunting Julia, Snake In The Grass and Life & Beth to be a trilogy; even if he were to consider the plays a trilogy - or three loosely connected plays - he has never referred them as the Things That Go Bump trilogy.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.