Interview: Sunday Times (1 June 1986)

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

Shakespeare Of The South Bay

by Michael Church

"I stomped off home and, with the help of my then wife, who was a very judicious editor, wrote a play under a joint pseudonym, Roland Allen. This was the time of skiffle and coffee bars and the [first] play was an unashamed launch for my own acting career. I came on in act one and stayed on, with all the best lines, until the end, and I danced and sang and played the guitar - none of which I was very good at. It was an immensely practical way to start. I learned a great deal from seeing the same bits die every night."

"I played Stanley in the second production of
The Birthday Party, directed by this totally unknown and, as we thought, slightly crazy writer who was theatrically electrifying. I was converted forever to Pinter."

"[Farce is like] playing a very difficult Liszt sonata - you need so much muscle and ingenuity. The more unlikely the events you have to portray, the more credible you have to make them".

"I'm very interested in how little one can do and still make people laugh."

"Often, you don't realise what you've done until the other person involved says, 'You rotten bastard, why did you have to put our moment into this play?' And I say, 'Nobody knows it's there except you and me, and I didn't know until you pointed it out - I'd forgotten.'"

"For the first two weeks [of writing] there's a brainwashing time when I get rid of everything buzzing round my head. I just unwind, do jigsaw puzzles or play patience or computer games - anything to put my mind out of gear. And then I start."

"It's a building [the National Theatre] you go into determined to lick. You've got everything against you, a massive administration, you can't know everybody. I like to know the person cleaning the auditorium in the morning."

"My characters tend to get angry about tiny things. I think most people do that because they can't cope with huge things - the great mushroom clouds of dust blowing over. They think, well, there's bugger all I can do about that, but I shall continue to get angry with the man next door putting weeds over my fence."

"I have this abhorrence of extremism, partly because it's so desperately boring and humourless. I've been in London for a month, staying in a hotel, and every day there seems to be a march going past for something - it's often something worthy, but it's always packed with venom. It's Rentawoman. It always seems to be the same girl with a loud-hailer leading the chants."

"Political theatre is usually so busy being political that it forgets to be theatre. People tend to be sublimated to ideas, so you get this consciously two-dimensional cardboard figure coming on and saying, 'I represent capitalism'. And then you get some appalling little chap in a cap on the other side of the stage who represents the downtrodden ... oh, God! you think . . . and then on comes the singing shop steward to ecstatic applause - and he hasn't got a name! They can't even be bothered to give him a name. Think of all the writers who have given their characters the possibility of a good and a bad side. The best political plays hit you without your knowing it. It's so insulting to be shouted at."

"Part of me feels like a man who works for Waddingtons inventing new games and dying to play them with somebody."