Interview: Over 21 (May 1976)

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

Going Out

by Shirley Green

"The only time I had a play on and nothing in the pipeline was with Mr Whatnot, my very first production. [1] It wasn't too successful, and I was so absolutely shaken, so utterly discouraged, that I didn't write again for three years. [2] At least now, well, if Confusions is a disaster I can always say: 'It's a very old play' and excuse it that way."

"Although I brood a lot over a play, I find the actual writing very, very depressing, and get it over in five or six days, writing butt up to rehearsals. But then the
directing, which is a direct extension of the writing, means I continue to develop, well, discover the characters as I go along. I don't mean that I re-write but I work out the stage directions: all the moves around the table in Table Manners, for instance, were plotted at Scarborough. By the time my plays arrive in London, technically at any rate, they're already in good shape."

"I'm afraid I'm one of those people who's a bit like everyone else. I think of the marvellous remark about 25 minutes after the person's left the room."

"My father was a provincial bank manager in Sussex. And a lot of the - well, I always think a lot of the stuff you're going to write about happens before you're ten years old. The rest of the time you're topping up."

"A lot of people assume I get an automatic dual-carriageway straight from Scarborough to the West End. But nobody wanted
The Norman Conquests - producers were prepared to do one of the plays but not the trilogy. So in the end we did all three at Greenwich. Then came the wonderful press reaction - and then the stamping of tiny managerial feet."

Meantime, the man who could have Broadway at his feet trails around the south-west seeing what audiences make of Scarborough's touring production of
Just Between Ourselves. (A play London won't see till 1977, though the National Theatre company will be doing his Bedroom Farce in November of this year. [3]) Why didn't he go to, New York for the ritual lionising at Sardi's? [4]

"I'm not greatly happy in New York. You've either got a metabolism that rises to the 'this-is-where-it's-at' feeling or... well... I always sort of cringe and hide."

Website Notes:
[1] This refers to his first West End production rather than his first professional play,
The Square Cat. Following the disastrous reception to the West End production of Mr Whatnot, Alan Ayckbourn considered giving up playwriting for good and joined the BBC as a Radio Drama Producer.