Interview: The Stage (9 August 1984)

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

An Eminently Dippable Play From Ayckbourn

by Ian Watson

"We'd done Way Upstream in Houston. A most exhausting thing. And practically everyone was legless, including these two. But these two [the actors Robin Herford and Lavinia Bertram] were actually going to come back, whereas nobody else was - everyone else wanted to go and mend their house, or go somewhere sane. And so it seemed, in view of Robin and Lavinia's long-term working association with each other and with me, that it was now or never: the stars wouldn't fall together again."

"It's [
Intimate Exchanges] not a show that it is necessary - or perhaps even desirable - to see all of. It's a thing that we hope people will come to normally and see once, and then that curiosity will bring them back. If you really get absolutely hooked on it, you can go 16 times, but I think a normal, average, healthy person with all his right senses would probably say that four times was a jolly good average and eight was fairly fanatical."

" I wanted to do the 'alternative' play which we started with
Sisterly Feelings. But with this [Intimate Exchanges], I knew that to make a satisfactory one, it had to be a two-hander, simply because no way can you have eight actors in control of a vehicle like this - it just isn't possible."

"I don't think it [
Intimate Exchanges] could ever be done commercially" - this from a man neatly pigeonholed in a recent book as "a self-confessed commercial playwright"! - "because the rehearsal time and the sheer expenditure on it wouldn't interest. Where the hell are you going to get two stars, who've got to commit themselves to a year or it's not worth doing- because it takes about a year to get it on. We're lucky, we can do it in six weeks, because we've done it before. Starting from scratch, they'd have to slow down: they might get two on quite quickly, but then, by the time you get to number seven, you really are needing at least six weeks."

In Scarborough, no timescale was imposed when they launched into the project. "That was variable. I think it always had to be. That's where Scarborough comes in, where you can actually plan what you're going to do as you go. You have wonderful flexibility."

"We had the problem at first," Robin Herford adds, "because Alan was directing
Way Upstream at the National, so we had to get ten scenes on before he went down there, which was a bit of a rush. They got progressively easier to rehearse as one became aware of the complexitities of the characters. It's really quite hard initially being thrown four or five characters to make convincingly rounded in a three-week rehearsal period. One had that extraordinary feeling during rehearsal when one would get to a great big scene, say, as Miles; and you'd do that, and you'd go off, and you'd think: 'Good, that's over!' And then you thought: 'Crikey, what comes now? It's me again!' And you'd go back as someone else."

"It's an eminently dippable play, [
Intimate Exchanges]. I think they should be playing it forever, and you should take the kids along and see a bit you haven't seen before. Then they'd take their grandchildren and bring you along as great-grandparents, and you'd see a bit more. That would be really nice. It would be like going back to Blackpool."