Interview: Sunday Times (3 October 1999)

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

Arise, Sir Laughalot

by Bryan Appleyard

"Directors have to make you want to come back tomorrow. The actors have got to go through all that agony, angst and tension, and they've got to feel they're doing it because they love doing it."

"I wanted to write a play [
Comic Potential] about the nature of being human, and so I came up with this Pygmalion-esque story about a boy who falls in love with an android. I don't specify the time, but it's probably closer than we think. I think there are two things that separate us from the animals - the ability to fall in love and a sense of humour, and it's no coincidence that the two are so closely linked. Look at those lonely-hearts ads - they all demand GSOH - good sense of humour. They think they could love someone as long as they could make them laugh."

"It [
Comic Potential] was to answer all those people who keep asking me why I don't write a serious play. I'm very happy to be privileged enough to write comedy. It doesn't mean seriousness has to go out of the window."

"People aren't where they are anymore, they're always somewhere else. Like those mobile phones with earpieces - you think someone's talking to you and they're talking to somebody in Edinburgh. And all this hysteria about the internet. People say you can look at a pair of shoes on the screen and turn them through 180 degrees. No, no, that's not the point. You want to go to Bluewater and look at the shoes and laugh at some idiot trying on trousers that are too tight for him. That is what shopping's about - it's about people. And that's what my sort of theatre is about - sitting and watching something live, among live people. If you're moved to tears by something, you're always aware that there's another person on the other side also moved to tears. It's a double thing - I'm human, you're human, we all feel the same."

"Why hasn't Patrick Marber written four more plays since
Closer? Somebody should be pushing him hard. There's been a three - or four - year gap. To me, that's extraordinary."

"I have this great suspicion that the accountants are just waiting to pounce all the time. They have a pronunciation unit at the BBC which people used to ring up to check on foreign words. Well, now they charge the producers £10 for each call, so nobody uses it. And drama producers can't afford to rent studios to do plays in. That is a house entirely divided against itself."

"The best comedy is when you come out in the interval and you say to someone, 'Did you see that?' And, of course, they did. But it was so delicately done, the actors and the director have been clever enough to put it just so you couldn't miss it, but you still felt it was meant for you. It's terribly important, we need to laugh."