Interview: Middlesbrough Evening Gazette (May 1976)

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

Ayckbourn - Brilliance Amongst The Confusion

by Keith Newton

"For some strange reason my work is liked elsewhere, but there is no direct path from Scarborough to the West End. The Norman Conquests was turned down because it was three plays in one and they said it wouldn't work. Eventually someone put it on at Greenwich with Torn Courtenay in the lead role. It was a great success and the West End management came thundering down to see it. We could hear them coming, it was like a stampede. We took them to the cleaners." [1]

"I think I get my ideas from desperation. I started
Just Between Ourselves on the Thursday, finished it on the Friday, had it typed on the Saturday, duplicated on the Sunday and into rehearsals on the Monday. Actually I don't like writing, that's why I leave it all to the last minute. I know if I have a second's gap, I will do it all over again in a different way. When I started writing plays I was very plot orientated and my work was strung together like knitting with not much chance for the cast to establish hidden depths of character. Then I discovered how to make people laugh, and now I'm much more interested in the Quality of laughter. The most rewarding kind is not the belly laugh but the laugh of sympathy, understanding and total recognition, seeing in them characters facets of people you know or live with."

"I always try to write about people to whom things happen apparently by chance, life's onlookers who cannot do anything about controlling things and just have to cope. I hope they're recognisable but I don't consciously search for Mr. Average."

"I am now moving towards my idol Chekhov who wrote the most perfect comedies of understanding. It is a long time since I wrote purely for myself."

"The luxury of earning enough from my writing is that it has given me the ability to say no. If Mr. Healey has done anything he has given me back my integrity. For instance an American producer offered me 250,000 dollars to alter the order of the acts in
Absurd Person Singular. I said no. He said: 'Think of the money.' I said I didn't need the money and the answer was still no."

Website Notes:
[1] This is not entirely accurate. Alan's regular West End producer brought both
Absurd Person Singular and The Norman Conquests into the West End; whilst he was not convinced The Norman Conquests would work as a trilogy in the West End, he clandestinely helped fund the production at the Greenwich Theatre on the proviso he had first refusal for the West End transfer should it proof popular. Whilst there was huge subsequent interest from producers to transfer the trilogy into the West End, it was Codron who took it in.