The 7 Deadly Virtues: History

The 7 Deadly Virtues is Alan Ayckbourn's sixth collaboration with the composer Paul Todd on a revue and is arguably the most ambitious and complex of what are essentially light musical entertainments.

It was presented as a full-length revue in-the-round at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, on evenings from 12 January to 5 February 1984; it had been advertised as opening a week earlier on the 5 January but for reasons now lost, it was delayed by a week and the run extended by a week.

The revue looks at each of the seven Virtues in turn through narrative songs, each one generally following the theme that virtues can be as destructive as vices if pursued far enough. The piece reprised
Petra And The Wolves from Incidental Music to represent Hope, but every other song was otherwise original. There was no running narrative through the revue with each song having its own mini-plot.

A measure of the complexity of the piece was the fact this was the first of the revues not to feature a live band. Instead the production made extensive use of pre-recorded music and effects with Paul Todd on synthesiser. It has rarely been revived since and has not been published, although it is available to produce. An audio-recording of the revue was produced by the theatre and sold exclusively at the venue for the duration of the production's run featuring the original company.

Intriguingly - and not recorded in the archives at the Stephen Joseph Theatre - is the fact a half-hour version of the revue entitled
Deadly Virtues was recorded by BBC North and broadcast on BBC1 North on 2 March 1984 at 10.15pm. The half-hour television production apparently featured extracts of the revue - with the original company - recorded at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough.

"I think we overshot with this one. Vast tone poems with enormous pre-recorded scores and singing demands that would have taxed most opera singers."

Alan Ayckbourn

The Songs Of The 7 Deadly Virtues

Fortitude: An assertion at first that no-one's really afraid of the dark. And then...
: Seen in retrospect through the eyes of Old Prudence. She re-lives her past, her childhood and adolescence. Her reserved, almost aloof relationships with young gentlemen, her mother's influence, and finally, when forced to decide between the two, her hide and seek with love comes to an end.
: A chorale-style piece examining the nature of "justice".
: A Japanese story of identical twins, Yuki and Niou, their lives and life-styles and finally their deaths, told through the eyes of that old favourite - the Narrator. In this case, several narrators!
The little-known story of Job, (whose patience was obviously founded on his faith), the trials that Satan concocted for him, his visits from helpful wise men, his testing by boils, and his continual re-affirmation of his faith, until good triumphs over evil. In the style of rock-opera.
Hope: (sub-titled Petra and the Wolves) this mini-operetta follows the adventures of young, hopeful, Petra, from her home in the forest to the bright lights of London. Her fame and happiness are soon destroyed by the sharks that surround her, and, destitute, she returns to the forest to find true-love with Tom the Woodcutter.
: The sum of our expectations. The central male character is seen from three different female viewpoints - secretary, mother and wife, and, in fact, is sung and acted by three different people who are, in turn, the boss, the young son, and the husband. On his death we hear the real truth behind his words on earth, when he was exhorted by his womenfolk to "better things".

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