Interview: Birmingham Post (27 December 1980)

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

Success Beside The Sea

by John Slim

"There is nothing worse than sitting through your own play [by another director] with a smile, hoping nobody will ask you what you think of it and that if anybody does, you can lie convincingly."

"He [
Stephen Joseph] was a man of what were for his time extraordinary schemes, like in-the-round theatres; a man who brought writers into theatres, which was something very unfashionable. Writers were not animals to be seen in buildings: they lived in Corfu, sent scripts in and turned up on the first night."

"The stage manager [at Leatherhead] said there was a company in Scarborough and I said: 'Where the hell's Scarborough?' - being London-born and like all Londoners, oblivious to anything north of Potters Bar. Stephen Joseph went round actively encouraging members of his company - box office staff and actors alike - to write. When he suggested that I should write a play, I did. It was called
The Square Cat. I wrote it and acted in it. The first three plays I wrote, I featured in very strongly. They were there to feature me: at that time, possibly under Coward-esque influence, I reckoned the best way to get yourself launched as an actor was to write parts for yourself which ensured that you had all the most glowing lines and all the best moments."

"I suppose I am a theatre writer. I live in theatres all the time. And besides being a writer, I am a
director: I am fascinated by the whole mechanics and liveliness of theatre. It seems to me that there are things which are essentially theatre at a time when a lot of the extraneous trappings of theatre, the huge settings, have been stripped away by films and television. We are left with a liveliness and spontaneity. One had to ask the question: 'What argument can I put to people in this town, to persuade them to come to the theatre?' One cannot offer them spectacle. One cannot offer them Towering Infernoes. What we can offer them is spontaneous live performance. So my plays are written for living actors and performed before a live audience."

"When we did
Taking Steps in our little theatre, what I loved was that the audience, which has to walk across the stage to get to the foyer, was treating the steps the same as the actors had, and running up and down them at the interval."

"These days, I allow my characters to dictate how the play goes. I would never these days bend the plot to suit a device if in doing so I thought I betrayed the characters. Although people are sometimes upset by
Just Between Ourselves, I think they would have been more upset long-term if I had somehow put the woman into a plight and artificially plucked her out ol it - which never happens and is no help."

"The under-currents of apparently quite normal have-a-cup-of-tea speech are in fact saying a lot more than that. They are saying; 'I am desperately unhappy' or 'I wish someone to help me' or 'I believe my husband is having an affair.'"