Interview: The Observer (4 March 1979)

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

Absurd Persons, Plural And Suburban

by Janet Watts

"If you write comedies, you've got to be serious about them and take the characters seriously; and all the best comedy is rooted in deeply serious things, and throws light upon aspects of life we're frightened to think about. This will make me sound like Max Bygraves, but it seems to me a good thing if you can outline some of the small areas of grey angst in people's minds and say. This can be dealt with a little more lightly."

"As one grows courage as a playwright, one takes time to stop and scrape more layers off the characters: and as you take away these layers, you get into all sorts of bones and awfulnesses which are normally way below the surface, and which belong to desperate people. But I find a lot of people are desperate today."

"Of course there's a huge change of role going on at the moment, and for that reason it's a fascinating period to chronicle, but I don't think it's helped every woman. It has helped a few; it has made others schizophrenic and guilty. Because what do they do now? And it's affected men, too - they don't know what they're supposed to be doing, either."

"I don't think I've made a single decision in my life, except possibly not to have the soup. I didn't give up acting - acting gave me up; I didn't want to write -
Stephen Joseph made me.'

"Since I deal a lot with relationships in peril, I think it helps to have been through something fairly perilous with someone you've been in love with."

"I don't want people to watch the plays with their minds closed. I've a feeling that most of us today have, to save ourselves, a cut-off point, because we're exposed to so many terrible things in depth."

"You realise very rapidly that you have no problem that someone else doesn't have. There is a reassurance in seeing on stage a couple who have even worse problems than you do. I think a lot of people live their lives on a very subjective level, and don't take stock of what they're doing; but if you showed them a film of them throwing plates at each other, they'd roll around."

"My plays are all to do with recognition."

"Middle-class life is not that different, wherever you go. The northern playwright Alan Plater once said to me, I write about people at work, you write about people at play; and it's what they do between their work that obsesses me, especially as we get nearer the world of the silicon chip, when we're going to be extremely leisured, and a lot of people are going to have awful problems. My characters are assured a certain standard of living - their problems are actually living."