Interview: Capital Magazine (18 September 1986)

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

Ayckbourn's National Conquest

by Anne Morley-Priestman

"Of course, there will always be people who object to plays which have a commercial success being staged by a theatre such as the National Theatre. But I'm not going there to do just my own play. I like the idea of the different spaces - the Lyttleton (the conventionally proscenium-arched auditorium) is my least favourite. What I'm really looking forward to is working in the Cottesloe. That's a simple box shape, but it's flexible and there's a sort of immediacy, a rapport between the actors and the audience, a firing of attention which you can't always achieve in a more conventional theatre".

"I get an idea, then put it aside for a time, mentally file it away. Then another idea or character joins it, and another. The actual writing I do quickly, but even then the direction can change. Characters and situations sometimes impose themselves in different ways. Something which can change is emphasis - funny to sad, that kind of thing".

"The audience at Scarborough is a regular, faithful one but if you live in a town like that, you are bound to meet the people who make up the audience outside the theatre and it puts what you do and what they do into a completely different light. I like that".

"It wasn't easy [
Way Upstream in Scarborough], but it was much simpler than in the Lyttelton! If you recall, there were endless technical problems - you could say that several previews were literally a wash-out. Of course, it's marvellous to have your play in a theatre which seats a couple of thousand spectators and to have all the superb technical resources of the National available. But up in Scarborough we had theatre-in-the-round - and so we got to know just how to use its virtues and limitations as effectively as possible - before anywhere else did the same sort of thing."

"I didn't then [with
Jeeves] realise quite how much music slows things down. Mind you, the book would have run for four hours at least just by itself. Then I had to write the lyrics, which isn't easy, as sometimes Andrew came up with the tune before the words. I think he's re-used some of those since! Composers do that. It might be fun to try again."