Interview: Evening Standard (6 June 1974)

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

The Ayckbourn Conquests

by Sidney Edwards

"This [Scarborough] is the source. If you put your foot on the spring you'll never get a river, I've got to work here at everything. I had to learn my job as a playwright. I've written 16 now and the first 10 I'd like to forget. There are a few natural geniuses around but I'm not one. I had to learn my craft."

"They are resolutely unimpressed here [Scarborough] by anything that happens in London, I might say I have four plays on in London and they'll say, 'Oh yes. What's the new one here like, then?' That brings you down to size."

"Usually when I write a play I feel my head is peering up from a fox-hole while the critics take pot-shots. With the [
Norman Conquests] trilogy I felt I was standing up."

"Where you are brought up is very important. My natural accent is Cockney, if anything. We lived in Staines for a bit and in Sussex a lot of the time. My step-father was a bank manager and we were heaved around from time to time. I'm very southern really. I got to know all the situations from the set of flying ducks to the bank staff being invited in for drinks on Christmas Eve and everybody being on their best behaviour. It was too funny for words."

"When I was an actor in Stoke-on-Trent earning £12.50 a week and with two children we could only afford a tiny flat and my eldest son slept an in the bath. I was terrified the tap would spring a leak and flood him during the night so I'd block it all up with eiderdowns and mattresses."

"The first thing
Donald Wolfit told me was 'Don't drink and act.' and added, 'Go and get a dozen bottles of Guinness and a bottle of gin and get them wrapped up'."

"There was one occasion I'd gone off to bed having left the whole night's work on the top of a Baby Belling stove. I woke up to a scream from my wife. She'd switched on the stove for the kettle and the night's work went up in flames. She came in and said, 'This is your breakfast - your play'. Luckily I remembered most of it."

"I don't know any actor that doesn't twitch about the next job and worries he might be going out of fashion. I don't want to go abroad to Bermuda or somewhere to live and save. I'm tied to this country - my source material is all tied up in it. I must be keeping the country by the tax I pay. I'd like a look at one of my missiles now and again. Am I very rich? I suppose so. When you get money you find you've got a big accountant, then you get a limited company and then you have money in trust for the children and you lose contact with it, really. I don't know how much I earn. I don't look at the Deutschmarks for instance. It would frighten me to death. All those 51 productions of
Relatively Speaking."

"I like sentiment but not sentimentality. I hate the gooey centre that afflicts so much American comedy. They write brilliant comedies but they're soggy inside."

"I just hope I can develop in the light comedy vein. And hope people will laugh. The nicest thing for me is when they come out looking a bit happy and say, 'We've had a wonderful laugh.'"

Website Notes:
[1] Despite Alan's harshness towards the first ten plays, there are - arguably - two Ayckbourn classics within these plays,
Relatively Speaking (1965) and How The Other Half Loves (1967). Four of his first ten plays have been published and are allowed productions: the two previously noted alongside Mr Whatnot and Family Circles.