Interview: New York Times (28 January 1990)

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

Bard Of The British Bourgeoisie

by Mel Gussow

''I have a need to write - and quite often.''

''I'm a bit of a food freak.'

''A lot of people in Scarborough try to figure out what I'm doing here. They feel that I must have an angle, because the theatre is obviously not making a lot of money. When I tell them that my plays are done elsewhere, places I don't have to be, and I get paid for it, they see me as a really big con man.''

''I spend 40 weeks of the year sitting in the auditorium
directing. One thing I don't want to do on my day off is to watch actors.''

''One of the reasons people come to my plays is they don't feel that someone is telling them how to live their lives. Having said that, I hope I do say certain things about the human condition. I've had to steer between Vacuous Empty Entertainment and Sit Down, Shut Up, This is Doing You Good Theatre.''

"Most of us are flawed and don't have eternally happy relationships. I think people come out of my plays saying, 'Well, we may have a bad marriage, but it's not as bad as that one.'''

''It used to be said that the audience would laugh at my plays as the curtain left the deck. Now there's a slight wariness because they're not quite sure which way we're going to take them. They know my plays are mine fields.''

''I think that play-writing has to do with bringing the right events into the same room as the audience. This requires a great deal of technical adroitness so that we don't get invited to a boring party.''

"
Stephen Joseph encouraged anyone who looked remotely literate to write plays. At one stage, he had the box-office assistant, assistant stage managers and electricians hammering away on typewriters.''

''I had, first of all, to entertain the audience. I was already walking that narrow razor blade between artistic integrity and commercial viability [with his first play].''

''
Harold Pinter was a rather burningly passionate young man. He set out with a script [The Birthday Party] that we found mystifyingly baffling. But we were professional actors who were prepared to follow a director with obvious gifts and who increasingly illuminated the text. We opened and the atmosphere was electrifying. It excited me more than any play I had ever been in. What I loved was his terrific humour. It was the first time I had seen seriousness and humour juxtaposed quite so closely.''

'His [Pinter's] ideas remain with me - the delight in words, the delight in repetition in order to create tension in a character, a sharpened love of language.''

''It's quite a mental juggling act [writing]. One just has, mercifully, a reasonably well controlled multiple personality. My greatest fear is to be psycho-analyzed - or cured. A doctor would say, 'You've got a whole load of personalities, let's get rid of some of them. Then you'll be this very sane, balanced person.' And I'd say, 'Oh no, it's my insanity that allows me to write.'''