Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

This interview with Alan Ayckbourn was written during 1999 and is held in The Ayckbourn Archive.

Your Own Writing

What influences do you have?
Alan Ayckbourn:
Early on in my career I was an actor and a stage manager. I read (and acted in) many plays. I think all of these had some influence. The good and the bad. Certainly Chekhov, Coward, Rattigan, Pirandello, Annouilh from earlier generations plus Harold Pinter and many of my contemporaries influenced me.

What do you like most about writing?
Getting the idea. And finishing. The rest is very hard work - though some of it can be fun when you get sudden break-throughs. But the most enjoyable part by far is taking the play into the rehearsal room and starting to work on it with a group of actors. That's best. I direct my plays first time round as well, you see. Though it's rare for a writer to do that.

What story do you think is your best yet?
I always live in hope that my next story will be my best yet. I have (so far) written nearly 60 produced plays. So there are a lot to choose from. I have no particular favourites. They're all different. I wrote my first play when I was ten and it was performed at school. But professionally I was 20 before my first play was produced.

What do you do in your Free Time?
I'm Artistic Director of the theatre here in Scarborough on the East Coast of Yorkshire. That takes up most of my time. Writing, directing, organising, planning. My job is also my hobby so I'm very lucky. I sometimes take brief holidays. Or I simply sit down with my cat and dream up new plays. (He is a great inspiration)

Do the ideas just pop into your head?
Yes, that's really what does happen. In playwriting the only thing you can't plan for is the first idea. Once you have that (inspiration, perhaps?) you have to work to develop it. Choose the space, the form, the time frame in which to set it - what I call the when, the how and the where. The nuts and bolts, if you like. Playwriting is above all a technical skill.

Do you write about things that happen to you?
Not usually. Thank heavens. But the characters all come from somewhere inside me. Though I may borrow bits from my close relations and friends. But to write truthfully about people, it is important that it's written from inside you. From the heart, if you like. Good comedy - good tragedy, too - relies on the audience believing the characters. When they believe they care. When the audience care, they laugh and cry for the characters.

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