Interview: Richmond & Twickenham Times (1 August 1986)

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

Ayckbourn Comes To Richmond

by Jenny Scott

"I'm really a director who writes rather than a writer-director."

"Nobody ever sees me directing here except for my own plays, I do it all in Scarborough. But it was a long time to be administering - that's what got me tired, not the directing."

"[Writing] really takes up very little of my time. Most of it takes place in my head while I'm doing other things. The physical art of writing the play takes a week to ten days, so at the rate of one a year, what am I going to do for 51 weeks? I might as well go out and direct a few plays which I love doing."

"I think I'm a morality dramatist. People do tend to get what they deserve in my plays."

"I do use elements of the family in my characters and friends. People don't often recognise themselves - if they were ghastly their own vanity wouldn't permit it, if nice their own modesty wouldn't allow it. But some people have said 'hey, that's me'. I draw most of my characters from myself and people I know. Nervous mannerisms from someone on a train but rarely a whole character - a germ of an idea from someone overheard in a restaurant."

"The nonsensical way I work in Scarborough is to announce the play long before it's written. Sometimes I finish it literally hours before we start rehearsing."

"The play I wrote some years ago,
Absurd Person Singular. I wanted to write about the gradual decline of two sets of couples and the rise of another couple over them and I started in the conventional way of setting the play in the sitting room. I discovered half way through it was boring. Whatever was happening off stage in the kitchen was really what we should be looking at. I'd got myself in the wrong room. You have to bring the action to the audience in the theatre."

"It seems to me, "whatever you do with a play, half the ingredients are missing 'til the actors hear what the audience make of it. It's like a superstition in the theatre. We're all careful in rehearsals not to assume we'll get a laugh in certain places especially with my stuff which is a bit oblique, not like Neil Simon who has the safe laugh-line. Extraordinary the way a completely disparate group of strangers - the audience in a theatre - form within seconds corporate personality. Great fun - what makes good live theatre worth it. You come on never quite knowing what you're going to meet over that abyss out there."