Interview: The Times (4 February 1981)

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

The Essentially Ambiguous Response

by Anthony Masters

"I've found that [the composer and collaborator] Paul Todd's music actually helps me as a playwright; it's given me that necessary kick beyond naturalism. You have an equivalent of the soliloquy - no need for a boring old drunk scene to make characters say what they feel. If you suddenly bring in a shaft of music from somewhere, they can actually play the subtext. Generally the English prefer to hint round the truth, which is fun and leads to a lot of comedy, but for me it's been very interesting to find this other dimension."

"The single most important thing about Scarborough is its flexibility. On a budget of maybe £3,000, nothing is not reversible. You can change things right up to the dress rehearsal, and I do, even if the production managers tend to go a bit grey. Now
Jeeves... that was a terrifying experience. There seemed to be a vast money-eating machine where you set things in motion that you couldn't stop. One of the things that went wrong (and actually everything did) was the length, so I sliced away - like a Minister for the Arts - including this bit where there wasn't much happening, just people walking on and off, and suddenly the designer came up and shouted: 'You've cut 23 costumes, they took weeks'. And I'd only cut five minutes."

"I never sit down to write a grim play. Vera in
Just Between Ourselves took me by surprise. I was going to write about a man who was awfully nice and friendly and whom everyone loathed - there is a strange breed like that. But out of the corner of my eye I saw this wife, she just came in with a cup of tea to start with, and she was crumbling away. And I thought, hang on, what's happening to her?"

"A man coming out of it [
Just Between Ourselves] said to me: 'If I'd known what I was laughing at at the time, I wouldn't have laughed.'"