Interview: The Press (6 December 2007)

This interview was published in The Press on 6 December 2007.

Final Exchanges
by Charles Hutchinson

Intimate Exchanges, Alan Ayckbourn's marathon within a maze, is entering the home straight at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

After recovering from last February's stroke, the playwright has assumed the reins once more to steer home his most mathematically challenging theatrical enterprise: the one with one beginning, eight plays, ten characters, 16 endings and 6,240 quick changes for actors Bill Champion and Claudia Elmhirst once they have completed the New York run, newly tagged on to the shows that began in Scarborough last spring.

The eighth and final play,
A Game Of Golf, teed off last Thursday, and between April 5 and May 5, every variant of the plays will be performed: one American gentleman has booked up for all 16 resolutions.
In his latest programme notes, Alan recalls how he described
Intimate Exchanges "rather pompously as a Festival of the Art of Acting. Lavinia Bertram described it as an orgy". Lavinia was part of the original cast in 1982 confronted by a project that kept growing like topsy.

"It got to the point where what Lavinia and Robin Herford were doing as performers was informing back to me as a writer how the characters should develop, so it became self-perpetuating and I'd never worked like that before," says Alan. "This time, we have the advantage of having the whole canvas. When I came out of hospital, I was getting requests from Bill and Claudia, and Tim Luscombe, who was directing the plays in my absence, about questions of interpretation. I said you have to go the full cycle; you're not going to know all the answers until
A Game Of Golf and then all will be clear! The whole informs the little bits. What Bill and Claudia have discovered on the last lap of the new run of shows is that once A Game Of Golf is up and running, they'll be able to start all over again and bring all that experience to working their way through them."

Each ending is set in a graveyard, a finite point indeed.

"They all finish with a certain dying fall, except for a couple that go up in mood. In general, the point is that we do have free will and we can choose, but we can't change unless we make a huge effort. Only Sylvie makes a big change; she's the one who changes the most. If you don't change, you just end up in the same place. How many men do we know who end up marrying the same woman again and again! At the end of their lives, people who have unsuccessful relationships will say weren't they unlucky in love but maybe they were impossible to live with. Anyone who would marry Lionel Hepplewick in
Intimate Exchanges must be mad!"

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