Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

In this interview between Alan Ayckbourn and Simon Murgatroyd - later appointed the playwright's Archivist - the premiere of Things We Do For Love is discussed. It was originally published in April 1997.

Things We Do For Love

Simon Murgatroyd: When Things We Do For Love opens at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, it will be your first new 'adult' play for almost three years. [1]
Alan Ayckbourn:
I haven't written a new play for a very long time so it was quite interesting to do again. I haven't had a new play since long before we arrived at the new theatre discounting rewrites, musicals, revivals and children's shows - you're back to Haunting Julia in 1994.

It’s also unusual in that it’s been written specifically for The McCarthy – an end-stage theatre.
For our first year here [at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, which opened in 1996] I worked exclusively in The Round and I only got to see the results of the work in The McCarthy. It intrigued me to write something for the McCarthy as it's an unusual space and I haven't written for an end-stage since A Small Family Business at the National Theatre in 1987.

What is the new play about?
It's about what it says really. I'm always amazed that some of the worst behaviour is propagated by people who are in love. We seem to save our worst behaviour for those we love. The reason is, of course, desperation to communicate, to be loved. This is a sort of love story and judging by people who have read it so far, it's quite a painful revisitation of love!

You originally intended to open The McCarthy with the end-stage intended Haunting Julia, but staged it instead at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round - with obvious compromises. Is the new play really specific to the end-stage?
I couldn't really do this in the Round at all. It uses the stage in a way people seem to enjoy when I do something silly. It's unusual and my designer is going hairless setting it out! [2]

Should the Stephen Joseph Theatre be staging new work at such a precarious time, especially considering the controversy regarding its funding in the past few months? [3]
We're looking for new voices and exciting new ideas because the aim of this theatre is to move on. Obviously we do come a cropper occasionally, but that's par for the course. My third play [Dad's Tale] here [at the Library Theatre] had only three people in the audience on the first night. Two of them were Stephen Joseph and the director!

Presumably it’s worth the risk, if something new breaks out and is successful?
Tim Firth did it several years ago with Neville's Island. He was a new writer who filled the theatre in August. Tim is going to write a new play for next year, but he now comes with a certain reputation. Every new play we do, the proviso we put on the writers is you have to try and fill the auditoria.

Website Notes:
[1] Alan Ayckbourn's first new play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre was the 'family' play The Champion Of Paribanou which opened in December 1996.
Things We Do For Love is one of Alan Ayckbourn's few plays written specially for the end-stage and its floor set will only work in end-stage productions.
[3] The first full year of the company at the Stephen Joseph Theatre (1997) saw the company engulfed in a financial crisis. This was primarily due to the fact the Arts Council had not increased its funding when the company moved from a venue less than half-the-size of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, but also due to local funding issues (typified by the infamous 'Luvvies Vs Lavvies' controversy) which saw both the local and county council threatening to pull funding for the company.

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