Roundelay: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay. If you have a question about this or any other of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, you can contact the website via the Contact Us page.

FAQS: The Play

Is there a preferred / correct order to seeing the Roundelay plays?
No. There is absolutely no preferred or correct order in which the Roundelay plays should be seen. The point of the play is they are meant to be performed in a random order and Alan Ayckbourn does not believe there is one of the 120 permutations which represents a 'correct' order. Even during rehearsals, the decision on which plays to rehearse in which order was determined randomly and when the initial scripts were sent out, they too were sent in a random order.

Could Roundelay be performed in the same order every night?
The question here is more, why would you want to do something like this which is obviously the antithesis of the original intentions of the playwright?

Can the plays be performed individually?
Alan Ayckbourn has made it clear he would be extremely disappointed to see this happen as it was not his intention for the play. Whilst it has been the case that the individual parts of his five act-play Confusions have been performed separately, they are predominantly stand-alone and have only the most tenuous of connections to each other. Each of the Roundelay plays is intertwined with the others and to present them individually would not be presenting them as intended as each of the Roundelay plays informs the others.

What does roundelay mean / what is a roundelay?
A roundelay is a circle dance.

FAQS: The Characters / Plot

(compiled with the assistance of Alan Ayckbourn)

In The Star, why does Gale tell Roz that Leo is a famous producer? Is she lying?
Gale is not a genuine theatrical agent. She borrowed a large sum of money from Mr Simmonds to help set up an 'escort' agency. In trying to pay back the loan she is using people like Roz to service men such as Leo and thinks the only way she'll get Roz to meet Leo is to tell her he is a well-known producer. She assumes Leo will have his way with Roz. She does not fully realise how Roz will behave.

The Agent, why don't Ashley and Gale just go down to Ashley's flat and hide there until the gangsters have gone?
Ashley initially doesn't believe Gale's story and by the time he does, it's too late to go down to his flat. Also, if Lance found Gale had left her flat, he wouldn't hesitate to break down the doors of other flats to find her. Someone could, of course, phone the police but by the time they got there, it would probably be too late.
It is also worth noting that as each play represents a different genre,
The Agent is firmly in the position of farce and is the one play where the audience has to suspend its disbelief a little!

FAQS: Statistics

During the play's original run, how many repetitions of the play order were they?
The original Scarborough production had 36 performances - all of which were randomly chosen in public half-an-hour before the play - and there were three repeats (see Statistics page). This was in line with what Alan Ayckbourn hoped might happen (as near the maximum number of permutations possible to see during the run) and it is only on the subsequent 2014 in-the-round tours that repetitions became far more frequent (including one permutation which was performed five times).

At what point does it become more likely than not there will be a repeat of a previously chosen permutation?
I have to turn to better informed people than myself now, according to Martin Barber - who kindly wrote to the website explaining the maths behind this - that with 120 possibly permutations of the play, essentially you need only have 14 performances before it's more likely than not there will be a repeated sequence. For anyone interested, the permutation details for all the performances of Roundelay in 2014 - demonstrating the number of repeated permutations - have been compiled on the Statistics page. *

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd except for the mathematics of Roundelay in which grateful thanks to Martin Barber for his informative communication on the statistics of probability which has been quoted above.*

* By contrast to Mr Barber, a second email from a professor'at Leeds University on the subject of probability was the most patronising and offensive email ever received by this website and to whom this author feels very sorry for their students if the email was a reflection of their 'teaching' ability.

The Roundelay section of the website is supported by Geofferson.