Interview: Drowning On Dry Land (2004)

This interview is drawn from Alan Ayckbourn's personal correspondence held in the Ayckbourn Archive.

Interviewer: What are your general views on the play Drowning On Dry Land?
Alan Ayckbourn:
As a general pointer the play is, for me, unbelievably cynical not to say angry (it was written when the celebrity cult was really peaking and when it seemed anyone would do practically anything to achieve their two minutes of fame). Thus all the characters, apart from Charlie, offstage and on, each have their own separate selfish agendas to fulfil by clinging to his coat-tails as long as they can whilst he's on the way up and ditching him and taking what they can as soon as he's on the way down, finally feeding off his corpse when he crashes.
Charlie, in the midst of this, is the total innocent. He is an unselfconscious natural, unforced charmer and the audience should recognise this in him. It is the key to the play and explains why on earth someone quite so ordinary and untalented could be such a huge success. The public, as they say, took him to its heart.
By the end, everyone is either packing up or has already deserted him. Linzi, Jason, Marsha, Hugo have all taken what they can from him and moved on. Charlie is left with an even more damaged crash victim, Gale, who is in a worst state than he is. i.e. a media pariah.

What is the significance of Charlie mounting the folly at the climax of the play?
The fact that Charlie accomplishes something quite so useless at the end, conquering the stairs to nowhere, more or less sums up his life. He's got there but what does it matter?

Who do you think is the driving force behind the ostentatious lifestyle that Charlie and Linzi are living at the beginning of the play?
Their type of lifestyle is a trap that virtually every "celeb" falls into. Linzi almost certainly drives it. Charlie, as is shown at the end with his newly adopted spartan lifestyle, is more easy come, easy go. He enjoys the material rewards but he can live without them. Linzi can't.

What motivates Charlie to attempt to kiss both Gale and Marsha within a very short space of time?
He gets what he mistakenly interprets as go ahead signals by both women and is willing to oblige. But then, he's an idiot and besides extremely randy. He's currently getting short sexual shrift from Linzi.

Does Marsha intend to seduce Charlie from the moment that she asks if he has a pen for the autograph?
I think she's an infatuated fan who would very willingly have sex with him if it would add to her own celebrity status, if the interruption hadn't occurred when it did. And a quick thrill at the very least!

Does Marsha really believe that she has been sexually assaulted by Charlie?
After the incident, things get taken out of Marsha's hands but she happily co-operates with the opportunistic media furore, fuelled by her own sense of frustration and grateful for the attention. She is ultimately convinced, poor girl, that a near rape did happen. But then everything that most people do in this play is borne out of a desire to accumulate celebrity status.

Was Marsha pro-active in taking action against Charlie or she just a pawn too, rather like Charlie?
Marsha is a pawn. Albeit a willing one. She was probably approached or at least advised to seek compensation by well meaning friends or indeed an "interested" journalist. She just has a minor league solicitor!

What is wrong with Gale at the end of the play? Is it medication or a breakdown?
It's hard drugs. She previously married her dealer so she's certainly a user whose habit is now totally out of control and whose brain is shot to hell with abuse.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.