Interview: Sunday Express (14 September 1975)

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

£2,000-A-Week Man Who Worries About The Cost Of A Taxi

by Peter Dacre

"The night writing started when my wife Christine (an actress whom he married when they were touring in a play) had two sons close together (they are now 14 and 15). They had to have their night feeds of course, and I realised with the first one that my wife was one of those women who is hell to live with if she doesn't get her sleep. So I decided that if we were to stay married, I would have to get up and give him his bottle. So I started sleeping during the day, getting up at tea-time, working in the theatre in the evening, and writing at night. My earlier scripts had baby's milk all over them."

"I can't wait to get my play into the hands of the actors. I also hate interruptions. If I get interruptions the play dies on me. So I deliberately set myself a deadline. That comes I suspect, from having a mother who wrote fiction for women's magazines. I announce the title of a play and the date it's going to be put on way in advance. Sometimes I've a very clear idea of the play. Other times I've only the remotest notion. Of course, the idea is brewing around in my brain for months - I write an average of a play a year - but I do all sorts of silly things to put off the dreadful day of writing. When I should be working I do things like fixing the bath taps and the cupboard doors. I even do jobs I dislike, such as mowing the lawn. I also do futile time-wasting things. I catalogue my pencils and number sheets of paper from 1 to 180."

"I write to entertain the ordinary holidaymakers who come in off the street because they can't get in the Odeon."

"My first ambition was to be a journalist, but after having divorced my father, my mother eventually and wisely married her local bank manager, and I got a bank scholarship to Haileybury. There I suddenly became interested in
acting and the theatre, and at 17 I decided to jack In my schooling. A teacher at the school got me a job at £3 a week with Sir Donald Wolfit's company at the Edinburgh Festival - and I was off into a mad world. Imagine a gawky lad being involved with this incredible eccentric, Wolfit. One of my jobs was to fetch his gin and bottles of Guinness."

"I was acting in a play in the theatre at Scarborough. It was a bloody awful play and I told the producer so. 'if you can do better get on with it,' he said. Angrily. I replied: ' Right, you're on.' I wrote a play, about a pop star with me in the lead and it was put on. But for a time writing was only a means of providing myself with, parts. Then I began to realise that other actors were better than me. I assessed my abilities as an actor in time and moved into full-time writing and directing."

"I'm really only aware that I don't need to worry about what I want to do. I'm still cautious with my money, though. If, like me, you've been very, very poor you never really lose that attitude. My accountant tells me I could take more taxis, but when, I come to London I look at the taxi, fares and think, ' They've gone up again! My wife is worse than I am. We were talking about buying a deep freeze recently. 'Can we afford it?' she asked. 'Yes I promise you we can afford it,' I said."

"I've noticed that when you're successful people tend to defer to your views - which I find rather alarming because nobody took any notice of me before. But I'm so wary of success. I fear that each play will be my last. There are so many examples of dramatists who have just stopped writing. I'm really afraid of becoming a rather pathetic institution."