Interview: Sunday Star Ledger (22 April 1979)

This page reproduces some of Alan Ayckbourn's significant quotes from the interview.

The Comic Laureate Of England

by William Raidy

"Being a regional man, I have a warm spot for repertory theatre. My comedies help pay the way for more serious plays. When we make some money we then go ahead and do
The Seagull. That's my treat if I do well with one of my own. I get to direct The Seagull or Strindberg's Miss Julie. We have a wonderful company. Our whole premise is based on using fine, all-around actors instead of a star system, which is usually the way with repertory companies. I took over the directorship of Scarborough in 1972 [1] and I'm happy to say that what was then a 13-week season is now a nine-month one plus a month's touring."

"At 17, I decided to have a go at the theatre, although no one encouraged me very much. Through a
French master at school, I was able to wangle an introduction to Sir Donald Wolfit, who I heard was looking for 'someone to polish his furniture. He was a most imposing figure, an actor of the old school who often wore a big, wide-brimmed black hat and a flowing cloak. He terrified me - but I got the job. He took me to the Edinburgh Festival and eventually I got the smallest of parts in a play he was starring in, The Strong Are Lonely, all about Jesuit priests in Spain. My job on the stage was to stand at attention for 45 minutes. I'll never forget when he decided to review his 'troops.' He had a parade of his soldiers and when he walked down in review, he looked at me and said: 'You're one of those people who looks funny in a hat.' I sank, but was soon revived. He made the decree that nobody was to wear a hat. The entire Spanish army went hatless."

"The first play I wrote was called
The Square Cat. I've destroyed every copy. [2] It was written by me, for me. It was a very daring farce that I wouldn't dare to do today. It did make me 47 pounds, however, which I thought was terrific. I was 26 when I had my first big hit. I've written 23 plays for Scarborough, 14 of which have gone afterward to London. While most people are quick to comment on how quickly I write a play - it usually takes a week to put it down - they seem to forget about how long it takes me to 'think' a play."

"My ambition is to write a serious play that everyone laughs at."