Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

This page contains correspondence from Alan Ayckbourn regarding enquires into his thoughts on playwriting in 2014. No other details are known.

Thoughts on Writing

Did you have a desire to tell stories from an early age?
Alan Ayckbourn:
Yes. Story telling was part of my upbringing - probably the result during my early years of having a mother as a writer who also spent most of her time writing in order to feed our single parent family of two! What choice did I have?

Why do strong-minded women feature so heavily in your work?
The result of the above. My mother had gone right off men at the time and preferred the company of other women. They chatted away for hours and usually never noticed little six year old me, playing in the corner. But I heard them.

How did starting out as an actor influence your later writing?
It’s not uncommon for playwrights to start out as actors. From Shakespeare onwards. It’s very important, a sort of apprenticeship, really. Nothing like doing it for actually learning the craft. A bit like learning an instrument before embarking on composition.

Who, and why, has inspired you most as a writer?
I was ‘born’ as a writer at an interesting time for British theatre. At the end of the old order, from Coward, Rattigan, etc. backwards and, on the threshold of the new order, Pinter, Osborne and co. onwards. So at the start practically everyone influenced me. Plus a whole load of black and white (as well as silent) films.

What do you consider the essential components of a great play?
One that keeps you in your seat filled with expectation and anticipation till the very end. Good narrative, absorbing shifting characters and preferably an intriguing angle.

Do you always follow the same format when writing?
Never. I try always to start with a clean sheet. Obviously ingrained technique and technical know-how will govern me to some extent. But whenever possible, at my stage of life, break all the rules.

Have you ever given up on a play?
Yes, once every few years. Hopefully before they’re even produced

Who has been the most difficult character to develop?
The good people are the hardest to make interesting. Villains are easy and generally more fun!

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