playwright Alan Ayckbourn made a rare appearance to celebrate a theatre’s 80th season.

The talent behind nearly 80 plays, many of which have appeared in the West End, was at Lewes Little Theatre for the launch of its 2019-2020 programme.

Alan’s son Philip, who is a playwright himself, also made an appearance as he lives in Lewes.

It was a rare outing for the 79-year-old writer and director.

Both he and Lewes Little Theatre turn 80 this year.

And it was a welcome return for Alan, who has had more than 20 of his plays performed at the theatre, most notably in 1999 when Taking Steps and Way Upstream featured on the stage.

An adaptation of his 1994 stage show Haunting Julia will open the Little Theatre’s new season.

And the show has a very emotional story to tell.

Alan said: “It’s about the effects the suicide of a loved one will have on the people around them.

“It’s tragic, of course, for the person concerned but it can be worse for those left behind.

“The play centres around people who had crucial moments in a women’s life before she kills herself and they wonder what they did wrong for things to end the way they did.”

Philip also has shows featuring as part of the Little Theatre’s upcoming season.

Alan said he was delighted that his son had followed in his footsteps.

He said: “It’s very invigorating to have a son who is also a playwright. To know there’s someone else in the family who shares the talent is rather lovely.”

Lewes Little Theatre is one of the South East’s leading amateur theatre venues.

Both Alan and Philip spoke of their fondness for local amateur theatre.

Alan said: “The amateur theatre has a freedom that we, as professionals, don’t have.

“They can do the work they want without the huge financial constraints we do.”

Philip said: “It’s a community.

“It’s providing entertainment for the local community to take part in and give back to.”

As social media continues to grow, Alan said it was the job of playwrights to make engaging stories to keep theatre alive.

He said: “You have to give people something they’ll enjoy, but also something they keep thinking about once they are at home.

“If there is something there, a question to be answered, it’s the mixture that keeps people coming through the doors.

The full 2019-20 season at Lewes Little Theatre will be unveiled at a launch event on Tuesday, April 2.