Interview: The Press (25 May 2001)

This interview was published in the Yorkshire Evening Press on 25 May 2001.

Alan Gets Two Plays For The Price Of One

by Charles Hutchinson

Alan Ayckbourn has a prosaic reason for setting his two new plays on the same set.

"I sort of owe the production team one after
House and Garden!" he says, recalling how his last novel staging idea in Scarborough involved two plays being performed in two different spaces at the same time by the same company of actors rushing hither and thither.

GamePlan, which opened last night at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, and FlatSpin, which follows suit on June 28, each will be performed by the same actors on an identical set design by Roger Glossop. [1]

"There was another reason for doing this," Ayckbourn admits. "We now tour so much, so if we can put two plays on one set, we can take the plays on the road for two-week runs and that makes it easier to take shows around the country."

He promptly issues a third explanation for his 58th and 59th plays - or AA 58 and AA 59 as he initially called them - taking shape in the way they have.

"I've also been trying to get back to writing for a specific company, in this case seven actors, who will form a micro-rep company, and my intention is to take that further," Alan says. "The plan would be to have a cast perform a play in Scarborough, then on tour, and then come back here for the next play."
GamePlan and FlatSpin are bracketed together under the title of Damsels In Distress, and both have troubled women at their centre.

GamePlan, businesswoman Lynette must cope with the double blow of her husband disappearing and her business hitting trouble; but can her teenage daughter's game plan save them? "It's a play with emotional as well as physical trouble, and I'm rather pleased with it because it involves a relationship I have no experience of, because I don't have a daughter or a sister."

Why is he drawn to writing plays about women? "One of the things, I suppose, is that the higher proportion of the audience is made up of women, and they're the ones who'll associate with the characters. Then again, it also works because most men are quite interested in women, or at least interested in the chance to unravel the inexplicable!"

Ayckbourn says times have changed since his early days. "I always remember being told in the Fifties that the worst thing you could do was write a scene for two women, and there was a great moan at the time from actresses that there were no roles for women. I've always tried to write up the women in my plays," says Ayckbourn, who believes that women now initiate rather than merely react. "Most of the men in my plays are buttoned up but the women can let rip and shout the house down. Men have to be up against the fates before they let things out and show their feelings. With women, I guess it's like writing for brass rather than woodwind."

Website Notes:
[1] As initially conceived, Damsels In Distress was a duologue consisting of GamePlan and FlatSpin. Alan enjoyed working with the company so much that when he had an idea for a third Damsels play, RolePlay, during rehearsals for FlatSpin, he promptly asked the company if they were up for another play which was swiftly inserted into the end of the summer schedule.

Copyright: Charles Hutchinson. This edited transcription and the end-notes have been compiled and researched by Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.