Interview: Ink (May 2004)

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

Bard Of Suburbia

by Fiona Kelcher

"I tend to be drawn back to plays about people rather than big issues. I don't write in the David Hare style about the railways, although I think there's a very good place for that. If I'd done that, I'd have written about the station master and his wife, because I like to focus on the people outwards, rather than from outwards to the people."

"I often tend to start with quite a dark theme, but my natural way is to write quite humorously. In
GamePlan I juxtapose Sorrel having a lark in the bedroom, and the next minute she comes out completely shattered and says,'I can't do it, I can't do it'." In the best of these two-tone moments, the audience roars, then stops guiltily and abruptly. In the worst, as happened in GamePlan, comedy wins over tragedy: The man comes out of the bedroom, puts some money on the side and goes to the door. Suddenly he drops dead and there's a moment when the audience is stunned and then they start laughing and they just laugh and laugh."

"Audiences vary so much; sometimes a show's bowling along, and at the end you'll get a lovely reaction.Then you'll suddenly get a house where it's almost as if none of them speak English. And the actors come up and they say, 'Was it us? Can they hear us?' and I'll say,'I don't think it was. It became you because you were beginning to panic' But that's live theatre."

"On a good night, coming out of an auditorium after a show, I sometimes feel that I've been overall host to a big lovely party. And the place is almost vibrating with the feel of people going. They're almost an entity, united as a group before they all go off various ways into the night. That's really a lovely feeling, and that's what theatre is for me."

"I spent my entire school holidays in the cinema. All the little towns that I was brought up in had at least three cinemas, so I must have seen 18 films a week. My brother and I used to go at one and stay till six when we had to go home for tea."

"The trouble with building two million pound sets on stage is that, generally speaking, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg do it better - they have more money and more technical resources. We've got a trap door with a bloke popping up. But what we do have and what they don't have, is an incredible one-to-one audience-actor relationship, and I think that's the strength of theatre."

"There's an awful habit of drawing people into the West End on the strength of being in
Friends or whatever. Some of them are wondrous, but a lot of them you can't hear beyond row two because they've never been on stage before."

"In my book it's about accessibility. If you look at the average West End show, which is completely unsubsidised, the seat prices are up to 50 quid; it becomes exactly what it shouldn't be - exclusive. To me subsidy is about making theatre available to people who couldn't normally afford it.We have a peculiar attitude to the arts in this country; we look at it as an extra. Every time there's a row about the arts, we always get put up against some very emotive or ridiculous cause. Last time it was public lavatories in Scarborough. They'll close all the public lavatories in Scarborough, unless the theatre cuts its funding.
[4] And I think, Well why not the bloody brain-scan machine at the hospital? Everything is more important than something else - and it seems to me that in a civilised society you should find space for a theatre and a library and an art gallery - something in your community. Otherwise, what the hell are you hanging around for?"