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Page last updated at 10:44 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 11:44 UK
Playwright Alan Ayckbourn at 70
Sir Alan Ayckbourn cuts his cake.
A host of stars came to Northampton to celebrate with Sir Alan Ayckbourn

Hundreds of people packed into Northampton's Royal Theatre to celebrate playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn's 70th birthday.

Stars of stage and screen attended the event, including actors Robert Powell and Richard Briers.

"He's an extraordinary writer. I don't know how he does it," said Briers.

The event was organised by the Royal & Derngate as part of their Ayckbourn Festival which runs until August 2009 to show the diversity of his work.

"This great man has meant so much to so many people in the British theatre over the last 50 years," said Laurie Sansom, the Royal & Derngate's artistic director.

At the gala show at the Royal & Derngate, fans gathered to pay tribute to Sir Alan Ayckbourn and to watch experts from some of his 75-strong canon.

Richard Briers and Robert Powell
Richard Briers and Robert Powell spoke of the playwright's greatness

During the evening Richard Briers described Ayckbourn as a 'great psychologist': "He quite frightens me because he has such an incredible mind. I think he has two brains to my one," he joked.

Robert Powell, who worked with Sir Alan in the 1960s, described him as: "A great, great writer. As a person he is very funny, very shy… and a very private man.

"It takes a while for him to relax with you but once he trusts you… he's a great friend."

Ideas 'bounce back'

After a stroke three years ago, Sir Alan now walks with a stick. He struggled to get onto the stage during the gala performance at the Royal Theatre, but his frailty doesn't mean the end of his writing career.

The 70th Birthday cake
The Ayckbourn festival ran from May to August

"My head was emptied by the stroke," he said.

"I resigned myself to believing I would probably be directing for the rest of my life, but suddenly the plays are beginning to come back… the ideas are now bouncing about."

At his 70th birthday bash in Northampton, Sir Alan was urged to continue writing plays until his 80th or 90th birthday. It seems as though he has every intention of doing so.

Talking Shop: Sir Alan Ayckbourn
30 Jul 09 |  Arts & Culture
Ayckbourn marks theatre milestone
27 Jul 09 |  Arts & Culture


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