Interview: Evening Standard (8 March 1991)

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

Ayckbourn's Invisible Asset

by Annalena McAfee

"You have to be responsible [in writing for children] and try to say something positive, whereas in adult plays you can be a bit more despairing and finish up on a negative."

"They assume that the only things that will attract children are the very very loud and the very very crude, mostly in terms of wide slapstick. Children can take fear, they can take excitement, they can take tension, they can take sorrow. They can take Bambi's mother dying. One hopes that the spectrum of emotion isn't filtered out and you don't just get custard being poured over people, although I think a bit of custard, even in adult plays, is fine."

This is his fourth children's play (two early pieces have been consigned to "deserved" oblivion
[1]) an writing for young audiences has had a marked effect on his adult work.

"It's been very liberating. I went through a period of micro-naturalistic drama -
Absent Friends, Just Between Ourselves and so on. But I've been slowly moving towards a much more graphic narrative style and the plays have got much bigger in their field, much darker, and more fantastic. And for fantastic, read childlike."

"I still hold tremendous conversations with myself. When people overhear and ask who I'm talking to I say I'm just trying out some dialogue."

"Writing for children is like a crash course for dramatists. Their attention span is shorter, which means you've got to be sharper. Kids will give you a minute and you've really got to grab them".

"When I open my other shows there will be about 20 critics from the national Press. At a family show there will be about two. Or they'll send their nephew aged eight along to review it and he'll write: 'I did not like the ice-cream'. You think: hang on, I spent months on this play and some herbert's telling me he didn't like the ice-cream."

"If you can give them [children] a taste of what we find exciting in theatre, which is the whole gamut of feelings and emotions, hopefully they'll come back. I run a theatre and in 20 years time I want there to be an audience. I don't want my successors to say his audience died with him."