Interview: The Observer (18 June 1986)

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

King Of Comedy

by Steve Grant

"Once I had a telegram from Czechoslovakia telling me that my play Relatively Speaking was doing fine. There was a PS: 'The musical version is also doing very well.' Then there was the gay group in San Francisco who wanted to do How the Other Half Loves. I was a little sceptical, because the play has a key relationship between a married couple, the wife being driven round the bend because of the strains of motherhood. I asked them how they would cope with this problem and they replied, somewhat chirpily, that it was easy. They would substitute the baby for a chimpanzee."

"It makes any up-and-coming director scared to do a play of mine in case everyone thinks that he's on the slide. I even do it myself, as when I was talking about doing a Neil Simon play at Scarborough recently. And I suddenly felt a degree of apologia coming over me and I thought, 'Why am I apologising for doing Neil Simon? He's a bloody good writer!'"

"Anything that can't be expressed through comedy I simply leave to others."

"They [public schools] teach you two main things - never look like anything takes any effort, and if you happen to be ignorant about anything then have the arrogance to think that it doesn't matter."

"Working at Scarborough has given me a base, has sheltered me somewhat from the rigours of London critics, but most importantly it's given me a sense of practicality. Basically we had to pay the rent and if you do comedy then you're halfway there. We did
The Brontës play recently and the audiences were terrible. I asked these old ladies why they didn't want to come and they replied: 'It's 'orrible. They all die.'"

"There's this daft idea that I spend all the year doing my own work, which is of course idiotic."

"I am good at good nights out, but then I firmly believe that the more you make people laugh, the more you make them think afterwards. Anyway, I'm looking forward to it. For one thing, if I've done nothing else, I do seem to be able to create a good atmosphere in any company I direct.
Stephen Joseph once told me that there wasn't anything much to directing. 'You just have to create an environment in which people can create.' An easy thing to say, a hell of a thing to accomplish."