Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

This interview with Alan Ayckbourn was written for a revival of Absent Friends at the Salisbury Playhouse in 2007.

About You And Your Work

How / why did you become a playwright? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
Alan Ayckbourn:
I wanted to act first. I started writing myself plays for me to act in because nobody else seemed to be. I found out why they weren’t eventually.

What would you say are your main interests as a playwright; what, if anything, are you aiming to achieve with your work?
In general, I want to celebrate the live event through an empathy between two sets of live people, cast and audience. I hope at best to hold us up to the light and occasionally help people to view things from a different angle. I don’t really want to change the world, I don’t think that’s my job, but I don’t mind bringing about the occasional beneficial change in the individual. Even if it’s only to see the funny side of themselves. All the worst people, in my experience, tend to take themselves far too seriously.

Would you say that there is a signature ‘Ayckbourn style’ and if so how would you describe it? What are your influences?
I hope, at its best, my style walks a delicate tightrope between comedy and drama, between laughter and pain. Light and shadow.

Do you feel your own experiences and relationships influence your characters’ relationships?
Probably. Since most of my characters contain large chunks of me, more than probable.

Do people ever misunderstand your style or have your play ever been interpreted the wrong way? Can you remember any particular performance you’ve seen that was misunderstood/interpreted the wrong way?
They are frequently misinterpreted, often by directors who panic and encourage the actors to strive for the laughs. Which of course rips the fabric. Worse than playing them so solemnly that no one even smiles at them. They repay exploration and love and a little trust and respect. The result should always appear, like all good things, effortlessly simple.

How comfortable are you watching your own work?
Not very. Not often.

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