Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

In this interview between Alan Ayckbourn and Simon Murgatroyd - later the playwright's Archivist - the playwright discusses his thoughts on the future on the anniversary of his 60th birthday. This interview was first published on 22 September 1999.

The Future

It is an increasingly frequently asked question, but just what does the future hold for Alan Ayckbourn?

Now at the age of 60, he seems to be busier than ever at the
Stephen Joseph Theatre with no signs of easing up. So what does he see himself doing in the coming years?

“As I was reaching 60, I decided I do rather a lot and I thought 'I want to slow down', partly because I don’t want my own writing to lose out. So what will tend to happen is I'll direct less of the new work. I'll get other directors to direct the new writing and I will still encourage it. Doing work by other people is quite energy-consuming, as you have to put that much effort into the play, particularly by very new writers who are busy worrying about their work. I'll do less of that but that's doesn't mean less new work will be done.”

Demand on Ayckbourn as a writer and director also means it's becoming increasingly hard to devote the required time and energy to other projects.
“I'll concentrate mainly on directing my own work and writing. It’s just the state I’m in at the moment. I’ve got
Comic Potential to direct in London. Callisto#7 to direct here and Virtual Reality to write and direct. There’s talk of doing Haunting Julia in London next year, as well as House & Garden at some point. There's a lot of stuff for me to do.” [2]

Committed to so much work, as well as encouraging new writing, he does not want the quality of any of the Stephen Joseph Theatre's work to slip.

“I'm already committed to at least five productions next year. I'm just making more time for these. I’ll have to find someone to take on the new plays to be fair to those writers. Apart from that it's business as usual and obviously a building like this requires from its artistic director a source of energy and one has to provide the initial creative shove.”

By the end of February, the Stephen Joseph Theatre will have staged six plays by Alan Ayckbourn in just 12 months. Although three will have been revivals or rewrites -
Haunting Julia, Body Language and Callisto#7 - it has been an unusual year for the volume of his work staged.

“A pattern has developed that I'll write one new play a year and stage one revival - this year’s was
Haunting Julia. I think Callisto#7 came in because I was due to write a new children's show every two years and wrote The Boy Who Fell Into A Book last year and thought: 'What should I revive?'
“I'd also been working on it and thought I'd like to get it relaunched.”

Callisto#7 is one of a handful of plays which Ayckbourn has reworked, as he did with Body Language which has been a big hit this summer.

“I always wanted to do
Body Language again, as I felt the first time around it needed some more work, but by the time I'd looked at it and decided that, it was already running. It was doing all right but I kept looking and thinking I’ll tinker with it one day. Two or three years ago, I picked it up and in an afternoon went at it like a madman with a machete, as you do when you've been thinking about something that long, and I thought I'd do it one year.”

Ayckbourn can't foresee too many more rewrites on the level there have been this year in the future though, just an annual revival of a work.

“There aren't any more I want to review and rewrite. I don’t intend to do much to
Bedroom Farce next year.”

Website Notes:
[1] Alan Ayckbourn announced in September 1999, he was no longer going to direct anyone work's but his own. He directed Robert Shearman's
Knights In Plastic Armour that season and did not direct another playwright's work again until 2002 when he directed the world premiere of Tim Firth's The Safari Party at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2002. He would then direct the London premiere of this play at the Hampstead Theatre in 2003 and since that point has only directed his own work.
[2] The planned London transfer of
Haunting Julia did not take place - it took until 2011 for the play to be produced in London. House & Garden opened at the National Theatre during the summer of 2000.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.