Interview: The Sunday Telegraph (18 April 2002)

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

A Knight At The Theatre

by Gyles Brandreth

"I don't write about real people. I might borrow so-and-so's nose, but all the experiences and feelings in my plays belong to me. I don't need to look outside. I am still mining my own life."

"She [his mother] gave me far more complexes, hang-ups, phobias, prejudices, inspirations and self-insights than any writer has a right to expect from a parent."

"My mother was a liar. That sounds too harsh. She's dead, poor soul. My mother was a pathological inventor. She told me more untruths than truths."

"I have been in Scarborough for 40 years, but I haven't written a Northern play.
[1] Why? Because everything of me was formed when I lived in London and Sussex between the ages of four and 17. It was a rich childhood for a writer. The rows going on around me were instructive."

"My father may have had one affair too many. He was at the front of the strings section. He just had to turn around and there was another curvaceous second violinist, and off he went. I only saw him for odd weeks here and there in the school holidays, but we had a similar sense of humour."

"As a child, I heard a lot of women's talk.

"I realised when I was quite young that girls were getting less of a shout than men. In many ways things have got better for women over the past 40 years. The progress for women has meant correspondingly increased confusion for men. That's what I have chronicled in my plays."

"Men don't listen. They like to be listened to. A bloke sees himself as Mr Fixit. Tell him your problem and he says at once, 'What you should do is…' Women understand instinctively that there is a time to listen. They know men are good for taking the tops off bottles, but they need their girlfriends to listen to them. If you want to kill a woman, take away her girlfriends."

"[English] Vices? The ability to isolate ourselves from each other; the delight men take in not understanding women; the way we mistrust art. Overseas, you get respect from being a playwright. Not here. And then there's class. Put three Englishmen on a desert island and within an hour they'll have invented a class system. Virtues? We have a sense of humour; we are basically well-intentioned; we love animals and we never complain. You go down to the beach and they're all sitting there, in a Force 9 gale, with a light sleet coming in, doggedly determined to make the best of it. It's very impressive."

"I don't like being criticised. I get depressed, just for a couple of days, when a new play has opened. I lose all confidence. On first nights I give super parties, but I never stay to the end. I have to leave before I get maudlin. It's the same as the end of a love affair."