Interview: The Boston Traveller (7 March 1971)

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

From Britain To Boston

by Samuel Hirsch

"I played a sentry in a play called
The Strong Are Lonely [for Donald Wolfit]. My part required me to stand at attention for two hours each night. I think I was selected for the role because of my unusual ability at being able to stand at attention for indefinite periods of time."

"My mother's a good novelist. She's good at plots, but she can't write dialogue. I'm quite good at dialogue. I suppose if we collaborated we'd turn out a cracking novel with excellent dialogue."

"I started off as an
actor there [the Library Theatre, Scarborough]. After playing in some awful plays for several seasons, I told the producer [Stephen Joseph] I could write a better play than the one I was in. He told me to go ahead. If I wrote one he'd put it on, provided I wrote a leading part for myself. So I did just that - and it was the beginning for me as a playwright."

"I get my ideas from my own life experiences. I tend to pile up like a coffee percolator during the course of a year. Then I put it all down in one week. Usually, I set myself a deadline during the summer season at Scarborough. I'm the
director there, so all I announce to the cast is the title. Eventually, I'm forced to deliver a script - so I do. That first reading is generally my first full look at the new play.

"Basically, I write (and know this sounds reactionary) to find that wonderful interaction between the actors and an audience. When I was an
actor, I remember playing certain colourless roles and I'd wonder what I was doing in the play. I resolved that someday I'd write meaningful and full parts for actors.

"I've been influenced by every play I've ever been in. Mainly, I write farces. I come naturally to this form and I enjoy writing them. It's a demanding medium, but it gives you an opportunity to hit an audience with a bang. I like to keep to the farce tradition, only change it to a contemporary context. People say I write like Noël Coward. But things have changed since he wrote."

"I think of myself as a social writer. I believe the average man is more worried about what socks to wear than about the Vietnam War. He has his own social walls. I like to deal with the little things people worry about.

"The essence of comedy is contained in debunking pretensions. I try to show how the biggest tycoon can get his finger caught in the door. Things happen like that to me, too. Last summer, I was interviewed by a young man who wanted to become a writer - and I was very patronising. As I gave him advice, I lit a cigarette and sat back smoking - and talking. Absent-mindedly, I reversed the cigarette and put the lighted end in my mouth. He stared at me. I pretended it hadn't happened. When he walked out, he must have thought me mad. That's a comic scene, essentially - and I may use it one day!"