Interview: Plays & Players (September 1972)

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

Alan Ayckbourn: The Joan Buck Interview

by Joan Buck

"Time & Time Again. It's a very odd play really, odd for me. Anybody who has seen the two others [Relatively Speaking and How The Other Half Loves] might expect to see a fair old mess-up, people mistaking each other for each other's grandfathers - that sort of thing. This is about a sort of misfit (Tom Courtenay) in a rather conventional family who thinks he has fallen in love with a girl who thinks she has fallen in love with him; and neither of them have really, and he finishes up without her. How's that for a plot; it really isn't a story. Some people say the ending is sad, others say it's about how men can do perfectly well without women if they have to. I don't think it's about that. Some people can do without some people. This just happened to finish the way it did. One avoided the boy gets girl ending because it was dishonest, having worked a whole play about two people who are not destined to get together."

"The interesting thing about
Time & Time Again is that I have upset the balance. The central character should be the driving force. I wanted to write a total vacuum, a central character who took no decisions, did nothing, everything was done for him and by simply taking no decisions he affects the whole course of the play. Doing nothing, he upsets about five lives. He comes through it in the most extraordinary way; everybody else ends up miserable. Like certain characters in life, he attracts people who have an irresistible impulse to push him in one direction, but he slides out of the push. Some people get angered by this type, others get concerned."

"All my plays are written under tremendous pressure, which is why I still use Scarborough. I reckon that with a bit of luck I've got one play in me a year. That's all! I never write anything else. Even then I only do it under extreme protest. In February I make out a playlist for Scarborough and announce a play by me so I make up a title which usually has nothing to do with the play. This year we had literally started rehearsals before I wrote
Absurd Person Singular. I met the cast on a Sunday night in my house and mine was the second play that was going to be rehearsed in a fortnight. I suddenly got nervous, all these actors in the room saying 'I'm dying to read yours' and they're asking me what sort of clothes are they going to need, and I'm saying 'Well, sort of a suit, but it could be a pair of jeans.'"

"I like to keep ahead. I think it is just defensive on my part. One says 'Well,
Time & Time Again will be coming into London in three weeks and everybody may hate it.' Now if that was the last play I'd written I'd say where do I go from here, but I've got another one and I can say 'Well this is just an old play; I just know that my new one is the best ever' and so if they don't like the second best, well...."

"People who throw themselves into life with their emotions raw and really try to live it, often end up wrecks. If you really want to succeed, you don't have to look any further than the unimaginative, humourless, grabbing sort of guy, the opportunist who does not worry about other people's feelings, who looks neither to the left nor to right. One must be very lucky to not feel. I wish I were like that."