Interview: The Haileyburian (Winter 1993)

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

Alan Ayckbourn

by Cris Campbell


"It's not that one sits down and thinks, 'Well what can I do that will be totally different?' I think that the progression of the last thirty years has been very gradual, but undoubtedly if one looks at the first West End success,
Relatively Speaking and then looks right on to my latest one, it's a terrific distance."

"I wanted to be an
actor. I felt that was what I was destined to be. My first few jobs were designed specifically to inveigle my way into the acting ranks and away from stage management. This meant taking anything really, in the hope that someone would fall over, leaving a gap."

"Of course this is a switch from how it used to be. People like 'W. Shakespeare' were very much part of the business. By all accounts he was a smallish part actor within the company when he wasn't writing.
Stephen Joseph encouraged this. He encouraged me towards writing, and I eventually wrote myself a play to act in - attempting to further my acting career. It turned out to be a better way to forward my writing career. He also encouraged me towards the other discipline which I was later to embrace with great joy, which was directing. So before I was twenty, I was directing as well as writing. Although not at the same time. The acting sort of withered away gradually over about eight years."

"I have a theory that plays are formed by several seeds coming together. It is very important to have a theme that you wish to pursue. Take a play like
Way Upstream as an example. I wanted to write a play about the nature of leadership, and why some members consider themselves to be leaders and others don't, and the ones who do consider themselves to be leaders are obviously the ones who shouldn't be anyway, and the ones who don't consider themselves to be leaders would probably make very good ones if they put themselves forward. It's an ironic twist. Just to write a play with five or six people sitting in a living room discussing it would probably be very boring, but I got the idea of setting it in a cabin cruiser on the River Thames,[6] because that is where the nature of leadership always comes out. You see these red-faced men in yachting caps shouting at their reluctant families 'Come along darling, tie up, tie up, come on!' That was three or four ideas in one play."