AlphabeticalOrder Page 1 of 7 1 Alphabetical Order – Introduction Welcome to this introduction to Alphabetical Order by Michael Frayn. It has been directed by Christopher Luscombe. The VocalEyes audio-described performance at The Hampstead Theatre will be on Saturday 9th May. There will be a touch tour at 2pm, and the introductory notes will start at 2.45 and the performance itself at 3 pm. The production lasts for approximately two hours and ten minutes, including a twenty minute interval. The live audio description will be given for VocalEyes by Julia Grundy and Eleanor Margolies. There now follows information about Alphabetical Order, which includes descriptions of the characters, their costumes and the set. This will be followed by some useful information and contact details. Michael Frayn’s play was originally produced in 1975 at the Hampstead Theatre, before transferring to the West End, and is being revived this year as part of a season celebrating fifty years of the Hampstead Theatre. The play is set in the 1970s and takes place in a basement office which houses the cuttings library of a provincial newspaper. When we enter the auditorium, the stage is open to us. The basic structure of the office is hard to distinguish as the overwhelming impression is of mountains of clutter. Both the side walls and the entire back wall of the room are lined with dozens of bright turquoise metal filing cabinets and shelf units of different heights. Many drawers have been left open, and they’re all full to bursting with papers. The shelves are stuffed with box files and hanging files, out of which sheaves of dog-eared paper protrude. AlphabeticalOrder Page 2 of 7 2 The top surface of every cabinet and shelf unit is piled with rubbish, almost up to the ceiling. This detritus includes masses of large cardboard boxes, a couple of broken wooden chairs, an old clock, rolls of carpet, ancient box files, brown paper parcels and buff folders. There are also lampshades, large crumpled envelopes and stacks of ageing newspapers. Barely visible - the floor of the office is covered with bright green vinyl. The ceiling slopes up towards us from the back wall, supported by four slender metal pillars, one near each of the four corners of the room. A straggly bit of red tinsel is wound around the near pillar on the right, along with some deflated balloons - the remains of Christmas decorations. The ceiling is divided into square panels, some of which are lit up. The only other sources of light are windows set high up on the back wall, but these are so dirty that the outside light barely filters through. The back wall is painted in grubby oatmeal beige and stained with watermarks where the rain has seeped in. The middle of the room is filled by a square tower which houses the lift. An open staircase wraps around it, running up, away from us on the right hand side. The treads are covered in the same green vinyl as the floor of the office. The lift door, made from dark wood, opens out directly into the office, facing us. It has a small window at eye level, through which the folding safety gate is visible. As the lift goes up and down, the gate can be seen sliding past this window. More filing cabinets surround the lift tower and, on the left hand side of the room, a group of cabinets are grouped back to back in an island. It’s possible to walk all the way round the room behind the lift tower, but when anyone disappears in that direction, going between the cabinets towards the darkness at the back, they might almost be going into the jungle, never to return. There’s a little more space in the front part of the office, though this is also chaotic. On the right hand side, two brown veneered office desks have been pushed together, forming a T shape with two scruffy wooden chairs set behind them. On top, there’s a AlphabeticalOrder Page 3 of 7 3 cream-coloured dial telephone, a brown and orange mug, a number of rubber stamps and ink pads and piles of buff folders. Both desks and the surrounding floor are covered with open newspapers, loose pages and cuttings, forming an island of newsprint, much of it yellowing with age. A metal wastepaper bin by the desk is overflowing with more paper. To the left of the desks, stands a vinyl covered swivel chair on casters with a garishly coloured cushion. Beyond the desks, towards the back right corner, there’s a wooden case of small drawers for index cards. A more modern Rolodex-type card index, made of metal and plastic, is shoved on top of a filing cabinet. Over to the left of the room is an elderly easy chair upholstered in a fading brown floral pattern, with scuffed wooden arms. A low filing cabinet has been pulled out of line and placed beside the easy chair as a side table, with more papers and a spider plant in a pot set on top. A worn brown hairy wool rug covers the floor in front. To the left of the easy chair is a small battered white fridge with an electric kettle sitting on top, with a tray containing a jumble of unwashed coffee mugs, teaspoons and containers. Finally, nearest to us, in the corners of the room, stand two heavy old fashioned cast iron radiators, painted mustard yellow. A heavy glass ashtray filled with dog ends sits on the floor beside the right hand radiator. There are seven characters in the play. We first meet Geoffrey, the office messenger. In his early sixties, Geoffrey is a stout, cheerful man, with his receding dark grey hair slicked back neatly. He has a ruddy face and sparkling dark eyes. He wears a dark suit with a ruby red buttoned waistcoat underneath. Though he moves rather stiffly, Geoffrey always uses the stairs rather than the lift. He is very much at home in the cuttings library and often stands with his hands in his pockets or leans comfortably on the cabinets. Lesley, the new assistant librarian, is in her early twenties. She has a trim figure and a sweet, innocent face, with long blonde hair falling almost to her waist and clipped back in soft loops above each ear. She wears an immaculate honey-coloured A-line skirt and matching long-sleeved sweater, with toning knee-high boots. Her outfit is completed with a silver pendant and gold bracelet. The look is unostentatious but perfectly AlphabeticalOrder Page 4 of 7 4 groomed. Lesley’s desk faces us, so that she sits with her back to the stairs and lift door, and has to turn round to see who has entered the library. Although Lesley makes shy, apologetic gestures – putting a hand to her mouth as she says ‘Sorry’, or nervously smoothing her skirt – underneath, she is quite unruffled by the chaos around her and puts her head down to work without showing a flicker of amusement or irritation. Lucy, the librarian, is in her mid-thirties with a pale, rosy cheeked complexion, eyes outlined with kohl, and a mass of auburn hair in a loose bob. She’s dressed in a bohemian style, in flowing, somewhat mismatched items: a long-sleeved white blouse with flared cuffs and an orange and green striped tank top over it, a grey tweed calf- length skirt and chestnut brown knee-high boots. When she arrives, she wears a shabby fur coat, with a striped scarf wound twice around her neck. Lucy’s desk is set at right angles to Lesley’s, and she can survey the room from her chair, but she also likes to fling herself down in the easy chair, or perch on the top of a desk, regardless of the papers piled on it. Lucy stamps newspaper cuttings carelessly and turns over files in an apparently random way, but usually manages to find what she’s looking for. Her bursts of energy alternate with moments when she collapses in frustration over her desk, or rests her chin on one hand, head cocked wistfully. We meet four journalists. John is in his late thirties, a handsome man with sandy blonde hair that sticks up a little, giving him a boyish look. He has an absent, academic air, often frowning or chewing on his knuckle as he gets lost in his own thoughts. At these moments, he’s usually lolling in the easy chair. But he’s also restless and impatient, and strides off into the depths of the filing cabinets when no one’s paying attention to him. John wears a clashing, dishevelled combination of brown trousers and brown suede shoes with olive-coloured velvet jacket, mint green jumper and red tie, his white shirt sticking out slightly from beneath the jumper. In complete contrast to John is the silent, melancholy journalist Arnold. Arnold’s in his fifties, with a slow, slightly shambling manner. Despite this, he has a distinguished, almost theatrical look. His silver-grey collar-length hair is swept back from his forehead, and he has a short-trimmed grey beard and moustache. He wears a wine-coloured AlphabeticalOrder Page 5 of 7 5 polo-neck, brown trousers and a dark green velvet jacket. Arnold’s preferred place in the library is the office chair to the left of the desks, hunched over a file and saying very little. Wally is an energetic political journalist in his fifties with a pink, healthy face and neatly- trimmed white hair. He tends to bound down the stairs and take up a stance in the centre of the room, addressing his jokes to an imaginary audience, ignoring many of the people actually present in the room. His outfit – although co-ordinated - gives him a clownish look: with his dark brown trousers and tie, and beige shirt, he wears a brown jacket with a very large check. And lastly, Nora, the features editor, is in her fifties. She’s dressed in a matching navy skirt and waistcoat over a bold patterned blouse in orange and brown, tied with a large floppy bow at the collar. A pearl necklace and a pair of glasses on a chain hang round her neck. Her short reddish hair is carefully set in loose waves, and she wears unflattering heavy make up. Nora is tall and quite imposing as she sweeps around the room, stirring people up in different ways, commenting on their clothes, or giving them little hugs and nudges. Cast and Production Credits Geoffrey is played by Ian Talbot Lesley, by Chole Newsome and Lucy by Imogen Stubbs. John is played by Jonathan Guy Lewis Arnold by Gawn Grainger, Wally by Michael Garner, and Nora by Penelope Beaumont, AlphabeticalOrder Page 6 of 7 6 The sound designer is Fergus O’Hare The lighting designer Tim Mitchell The designer is Janet Bird, And the Director, Christopher Luscombe Useful Information and Contact Details At Hampstead Theatre Guide dogs are allowed in the auditorium. Guide dog care outside of the auditorium is available if you prefer. Water can be provided for guide dogs in the cafébar. If you are bringing a guide dog, you will probably have informed the box office on making your booking. However, if you have not, could you please let the theatre know by calling the House Manager 020 7449 4179. If you require any further information before your visit, please phone The box office on 020 7722 9301 between the hours of 9am – 8pm Monday to Saturday. If you have access to email, you can contact the theatre at firstname.lastname@example.org. The fax number is 020 7449 4201. AlphabeticalOrder Page 7 of 7 7 The cafébar in the main foyer is open 9am – 11pm. A small menu of food is served throughout the day. The bar is fully licensed and hot and cold drinks are available. You can contact the catering team on 020 7449 4205. To contact VocalEyes, call us on 020 7375 1043. You can receive a copy of the free VocalEyes Newsletter with full details on all our work by calling us or by following the links on the VocalEyes accessible website. The Newsletter is available in print, Braille, on CD or via e-mail. The website address is www.VocalEyes.co.uk. VocalEyes is a charity funded by Arts Council England.