Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

This interview with Alan Ayckbourn was written during 2005 and is held in The Ayckbourn Archive.

Life & Career

Who was / is your biggest theatrical influence?
Alan Ayckbourn:
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Theatre is still seen as predominantly a middle class preserve. What do you suggest could make going to the theatre a pastime on the level of say, theatre?
I thought cinema was largely a middle class preserve as well. In fact, come to think of it, these days, what other class is there? No, I think the only way you'll make theatre much more like cinema (and this has nothing what ever to do with class) is to amplify everything ten times louder, cut out nine tenths of the dialogue, oversimplify the plot and have everyone running around like Bruce Willis in their vests and bare feet. Come to think of it, that's already happening. I think it's called dumbing down.

Was your move to Scarborough and your insistence that your plays premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre a conscious attempt to steal the West End's thunder?
No. It was just a much nicer place to live than London and I more or less inherited a ready made theatre in Scarborough which gave me enormous scope to write, cast, direct and schedule a company theatre. I found an artistic freedom which I could never have had in London. I do believe, true, that not all the best art in whatever form should or indeed does happen in one corner of the country. Even if they think it does.

Do you still believe that men and women will never truly understand one another?
No, I don't think they will (they approach everything from totally opposite directions) which is fine by me because it does make life more interesting. What does worry me though is that often, because they don't understand each other, they're not very nice to each other either. And that is far more worrying. We really do need to understand our differences a bit more.

What is it about your plays that appeal so much to amateur dramatic societies?
I'm not sure. Equal cast numbers (i.e. men vs women). They look easy to do. (They're not). People seem to want to see them. (Hooray).

What is the biggest lie you've ever told?
Well done. What a marvellous performance. I've never seen the part played better, anywhere on any stage.

Has a knighthood changed you?
I insist the actors stand up when I come into rehearsals in the morning, but otherwise I'm the same sweet unspoilt bloke I've always been. I never sign cheques if I can avoid it.

Does the world in your plays still exist?
Afraid so. It's changed over the years as society has changed. But then so have the plays. I don't feel especially loyal to suburbia, more to small town Britain. Despite being born in London, I'm not an urban animal.

All time favourite records?
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue; Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon ; Bach - Concerto for 2 Violins etc, etc, etc,

The perfect Ayckbourn night out is ...?
Staying in. I'm always having to go out at night to work.

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