ALAN Ayckbourn: a name that always sends our box office into a frenzy. Ilkley Playhouse has a history of his productions selling out before you can say… well, before you can say Alan Ayckbourn… and we think that our next production, Haunting Julia, will be no exception.

Running from Monday, February 4 until Saturday, February 9, this short run will give local audiences the chance to see the first play in Ayckbourn’s ghostly trilogy, known collectively as Things that Go Bump in the Night. Ayckbourn, one of the UK’s most popular and prolific playwrights, was inspired to create Haunting Julia after seeing a stage adaptation of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

The eponymous Julia was a musical prodigy – nicknamed ‘Little Miss Mozart’, she was composing symphonies by the age of eight. A world of potential in one so young, until that world ended when Julia’s body was found mysteriously in an attic, with many questions surrounding her death were never answered. Twelve years later her father Joe, still searching for answers, invites her old boyfriend and a local psychic to try to make contact with her spirit in the student bedsit that he believes is haunted by her spirit.

At its heart this is a classic ghost story, but it wouldn’t be an Ayckbourn play if it wasn’t sprinkled with his trademark wit. There is also a deeper story, of a prodigious talent and the immense pressure to excel can put on an individual.

Next, get your tickets ready for out next Stagefright stand-up comedy night, on Saturday, February 16 – and it’s an Award Winners special! Improviser extraordinaire Christian Reilly brings the energy and talent that won him the Edinburgh Festival Spirit of The Fringe Award. He’ll also be packing guitar skills and vocal mimicry: subject matter typically includes histrionic rock bands, musical theatre and morose indie musicians. Christian has been compared to Bill Bailey and Rich Hall, which is prestigious company to keep.

Tom Wrigglesworth also performs. His claim to award fame is his recent Sony Award for his Radio 4 series Open Letters, plus a nomination for the main Edinburgh Festival award. Yorkshire-born Tom became a national have-a-go hero when he rescued a little old lady from the jaws of Virgin train bureaucracy, only to be arrested for ‘begging’. His subsequent sell-out show ‘Open Return Letter to Richard Branson’ also bagged him a Chortle Award for Best Show. You may recognise Tom from Russell Howard’s Good News, or Edinburgh Comedy Fest.

Finally, an absorbing drama is still unfolding in the Wharfeside Theatre. The Thrill of Love, which runs until January 26, is visually stunning and enthralling with its mix of 1950s noir and timeless detective story.

Brimming with topics and themes, it’s also perfect for book groups, social groups and anyone else who enjoys a spot of post-performance discussion. Look out in particular for Friday January 25, when playwright Amanda Whittington herself will be in to watch the performance, and discuss the play with the audience afterwards.

Tickets for The Thrill of Love, Haunting Julia and the Stagefright comedy night can be bought online at or by calling 01943 609539 during box office opening times.

by Claire Emmott