Interview: The Independent (6 March 1991)

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

Children In Mind

by Sarah Hemming

"I run the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Two years ago I became aware that the audience was getting older, I was getting older and there was a severe danger that one day we'd all drop dead and there would be no one left in the theatre."

"We were doing the odd children's show before that, but they always seemed a bit gungey to me," says Ayckbourn. "You threw your brain out of the window to do them. And I was watching some of the kids coming to the adult drama, sitting through pretty heavy stuff. I thought, what's the big deal with kid's drama? Perhaps the plays have to be fractionally shorter, and I think you don't want to leave the children emotionally scarred - but otherwise it's probably much nearer to adult drama than I thought it was. Which I suppose is a bit like discovering the wheel really, after writing for so long!"

"A lot of my plays are about people who attempt to find alternative existences outside their real lives. Because their real lives are so boring or so sad."

"I think my plays are getting more free. I've been through various phases. There was the sort of technical phase when they were like watches that ticked away, but were a bit light on character. Then I went into character and became very broody... I'm sure it's just hang-ups in me, but a lot of freedoms have occurred since writing children's plays. When I came back to writing for adults this summer, I felt liberated from the hold of naturalism. You don't feel such a fool."

"It's very interesting, having done both. I think in a way, without false modesty, that writing for children requires truly phenomenal experience. You have to do everything you do for adults, only you have to do it slightly better. Adults will give you about five minutes. They say, 'Well, it's a bit slow, but it'll probably warm up.' Children will give you quarter of a second. Then they say 'Boring!' and turn round to talk to the person behind. It's a very good. refresher course in writing drama. You can get a bit sloppy writing for adults because you can get away with a lot. I think children's drama needs to be respectable-ised a bit, done by a few of our top dramatists."

"I read an interview with John Harvey-Jones the other day in which he said he sometimes felt like a child surrounded by a lot of adults. You've got to have that in you. A lot of adults are very grown-up people. I can't stay around them for too long. They talk about a lot of Very Serious things. Eventually I have to run away."