Interview: Scarborough Evening News (1979)

This interview was published in the Scarborough Evening News on 19 April 1979.

It's a Hit

One night, after the curtain on the Broadway production of
Bedroom Farce, Tennessee Williams approached Alan Ayckbourn with congratulations.

"I love that last line," he said. '' 'I have confidence in myself. I don't believe it, but we have to keep saying it."

"He seemed to like it," said Ayckbourn modestly, just back in Scarborough after the confidence-inspiring experience of seeing the play, in the National Theatre production by himself and Sir Peter Hall, take off as his first real Broadway hit.

It was his fourth New York opening, and after
Absurd Person Singular, the best received to date.

"This was the first time that we had been able to take an English cast over, which I think helped tremendously - when my stuff is played in English, it's best played by English actors," said Ayckbourn, who joined the play in Washington three days before the Broadway opening. "I did a lot of direction on it, and it looked good from the start."

Even as the "excellent" notices on
Bedroom Farce were coming in, Ayckbourn was reminded that New York can be a terrible town for playwrights. A promising new show at a sister theatre closed after only one night - "which must be the nearest thing to losing a child," he said.

Bedroom Farce is not Ayckbourn's own family favourite - "I like it very much, but I think it can take care of itself. I like the ones that take a little bit of love," he said. But he is obviously pleased that American audiences have warmed to the play. He does not believe that there is that much of a gulf between the British and American sense of humour.

"There is an enormous barrier that none of our comics have really crossed," said Ayckbourn. "But though there are areas that the Americans prefer - they are more susceptible to the one-liner - they quite like to laugh. In a way, they are like a Scarborough winter audience - they either like laughing, or they don't."

Ayckbourn's return to Scarborough did not give him time to rest on laurels or anything else. He was immediately on his way to Leeds to begin work on a radio version of Harrogate author Brian Thompson's
Patriotic Bunting, which was staged at the Stephen Joseph Theatre last year. It was a happy return to radio for Ayckbourn, who was a junior radio drama producer in the city over nine years ago.

"The nice thing about radio is that it is technically the simplest of the technical media," he said. "In radio you can concentrate on the play and the actors - though the difficulty is to get people to play into the microphones instead of playing to each other."

Coming back to radio gave Ayckbourn the chance to indulge his fondness for creating stupendous sound effects with the help of unlikely aids.

"We managed to create the usual havoc we used to - putting mikes in the gents for sound-effects," he said happily. "We used to wreck the BBC."

The play should go out in mid-August. But it is unlikely that any of Ayckbourn's own work will ever find its way on to the radio airwaves. "They don't really work - they are very much stage creations," he said.

Website Notes:
[1] Alan Ayckbourn had already had a major Broadway hit with
Absurd Person Singular which ran from 8 October 1974 - 6 March 1976 for 594 performances; it was regarded as the most successful comedy by a British writer on Broadway since Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, which ran from 1941 - 1943. In comparison, Bedroom Farce ran for just eight months in New York.

Copyright: Scarborough Evening News. This edited transcription and the end-notes have been compiled and researched by Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.