Motorboat Takes Centre Stage

It is not often that a motor boat takes to the stage far less becomes the star of the show but that is what will happen when Hurford Bounty sails on to the stage at Salisbury Playhouse this autumn.  And sail she will because the Playhouse team have reconfigured the main auditorium to fit a 40,000 litre water tank, the 6 metre Conquest 21 boat and grandstand seating
The play, Way Upstream, written by Alan Ayckbourn was first directed by him at the Scarborough theatre in 1981.  It then transferred to the National Theatre for the London premiere in 1982.   That proved somewhat of a disaster however with the 27,000 litre water tank repeatedly flooding the auditorium.  The original opening night was postponed by 2 months!
The play can be staged without the boat and amateur groups do it this way, but the script is very clear about the setting and nearly all of the action takes place on board.
The Playhouse bought the boat second hand from a private owner. Before appearing on stage she had to be altered slightly – with a few extra holes drilled here and there for pullies and lighting requirements. Once the play is over the company are hoping to find a fun way to find the yacht a new home.
The plot of the play centres on Keith and his business partner, Alistair, who hire a boat to take their wives, June and Emma, on a river holiday together. What could be nicer? And indeed all is idyllic – except the Alistair and Emma know nothing about sailing, and Keith and June are having marital difficulties. Plus, daily visits from Keith’s secretary Mrs Hatfield bring worrying updates on the ever-worsening situation at his factory, where the workforce is threatening to go on strike.
And then Vince, a suave and experienced boating expert, comes onboard, trailed by his friend Fleur, and the stage is set for a nautical farce – or should that be a spot of piracy?
Alan Ayckbourn is perhaps one of Britain’s greatest living writers – and this is a brand new production is as a hilarious and bittersweet play. It’s a comedy – but as with much of the writer’s work, there are dark undertones at times.
The production opens on 8 September and runs through to 8 October.
All of the performance times and prices can be found online at
Ticket prices range from £12 – £21. With a special ticket offer that all seats for the first 5 nights are £12!