Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

This interview with Alan Ayckbourn about Woman In Mind is held in the Ayckbourn Archive but not details are held regarding the date of the interview nor who it was for.

Woman In Mind

What compelled you to become a playwright? Do you remember a turning point in your decisions to become a playwright and then a director?
Alan Ayckbourn:
I was drawn to theatre at a very early age, wanting originally to become an actor (of course!). My grandfather and grandmother were both actors. My mother was a writer of short stories for magazines and so there was probably also writing in my blood. It was a natural progression, I think, that the two would blend as I grew up. Later, once I was working in professional theatre acting and writing plays, I discovered that I had a limited talent as an actor - so I turned to directing instead.

In 1985 you wrote Woman in Mind. Looking at this play after almost 30 years, could you detail what it is you wanted to explore?
I was interested in the tricks a mind can play especially with a so-called damaged mind, sometimes throwing the entire nature of reality into question. I wanted to write about someone whose perceptions of what were real and what was their personal fantasy became increasingly confused so they are eventually unable to tell which is which.

What still delights you the most about this play? In your opinion, what is the most original aspect of this work?
The unusual nature of this play is its first person narrative, of course. I use the word ‘unusual’ rather than ‘unique’ because it’s always dangerous in theatre to claim something to be unique. There are always dozens of people ready to point out that it’s all been done before! Nothing’s new in theatre! I used the first person narrative in this play in an attempt to involve the audience more closely with the central character and hopefully give them the first hand experience of what it would be like no longer to rely on your senses.

What motivates you to write for the theatre? What is still crucial for you when you decide to create and tell a new story?
I am a personal writer. I write about private and personal predicaments rather than global issues. And on those rare occasions I do touch on global issues they are always observed very much from an individual viewpoint. I need to write about a subject that concerns me personally. I choose the theatre to tell my stories because it’s where I grew up. I know it intimately, having worked in practically all its branches. Some may say it is a limited medium but for me it still contains, for this playwright at least, infinite possibilities.

How do you see the writer's place in society today? What concerns you the most today?
I think the greatest challenge the human race faces in the 21st century is working out a way to survive till the 22nd. Hopefully during in the course of this next millennium, we will have discovered a way to accommodate each other on this increasingly shrinking planet.

What is the place or function of theatre in society today? What does theatre have to offer to still be relevant and to attract young people and a new kind of audience?
It offers an audience a live experience; conversely it offers performers a live audience. It wasn’t recorded yesterday. What is happening now is happening now. It really is unique. This is becoming a society which communicates with itself like it never has done before, through tweeting, texting, phoning and video- linking. The only time we meet in person these days in in theatres or restaurants and come the advent of Virtual Diners we won’t have restaurants for much longer! I think the day is coming that theatre will soon be the only place where live strangers can gather together and watch other live strangers to share together the pleasures and problems of simply being human beings.

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