Interview: Woman & Home (September 1987)

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

Alan Ayckbourn Interview

by Alan Hill

"Once I have the notion of the play I have to get it down very quickly. A two to three-hour entertainment needs to have a unity about it and, to achieve that, for a short time I need to hold in my head every single strand of the play. On a smaller scale, it's rather like remembering the Bible. You know that Genesis will start to fade any minute and you will be left with Revelations. But for a moment you have total knowledge of where each character is and what each is feeling. After that you could have a bit of difficulty remembering." Ayckbourn believes that his usual routine of a year's gap between plays is best for him. "I have lost one set of voices and found a new lot."

"She [his mother] bought me a typewriter when I was small to keep me quiet, so then I began to thunder out my own awful stuff."

"It's just that they [couples] handle each other with boxing gloves a lot of the time. The screaming and the shouting are an attempt to get closer, to be caring and loving, and not anything to do with being destructive."

Stephen Joseph was one of the great teachers, a man who generated ideas and thoughts. He taught me about the basic rules of playwriting and a lot about directing. He had an irreverence towards the theatre, which is particularly refreshing when you are young. Then you are only in the market for knocking down what is already established and finding exciting new ways for yourself."

"I hope that if I have a quality as a
director it is the ability to make rehearsals as easy as possible; easy in the sense that actors feel free to create in them. I tend to lead from behind and act as a sounding board."

"I do spend a lot of time trying to put the right word in the right place. My actors say my work only becomes difficult when I get it wrong slightly. They say it becomes impossible to remember because I've put 'really' instead of 'also' - something tiny, but the balance of the sentence has been upset."

"I dare not say how much of myself is in my plays, but it takes up a large proportion. Most of my characters are inspired by people to whom I am very close. I rarely write about strangers."

"They are plays that have a lot of humour in them. There are some qualities of laughter which I am more interested in than others. My interest lies in causing that laughter to be slightly guilty and, more often, a quietly joyous recognition of something that members of my audience perhaps thought was quite unique to themselves."