Interview: The Press (8 July 2011)

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

Dear Uncle

by Charles Hutchinson

“They asked me to do a version of
Uncle Vanya. I said: ‘Wait a minute, there are some very, very good versions of Vanya, what do you want mine to be?’. David Pugh [the producer] just said, ‘I’d like it to be you’ and then Matthew Warchus chimed in, ‘Don’t make it too Russian!’. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do that’.”

“One always has trepidations [adapting existing works]. The closer you get to the original writer, the more nervous you become, because you feel you may just be treading on his heels. So my first instinct was to move as far geographically away from Russia as possible; staying within my own field of knowledge. I’m always a tremendous believer in never writing something which you know nothing about.”

Dear Uncle is my own version and I still feel it’s very much Chekhov because nothing is ever forced out of its natural role. There are plenty of versions of Uncle Vanya you can see and if you want one that’s more accurate, then there are those, but this is my take on the play.”

“I look for the same seriousness and the same fun [as Chekhov]. There’s a clue to how to approach
Uncle Vanya in the original; if you read a play that at the third act curtain has a man running in being pursued by another man with a loaded revolver, having just fired it, and then says 'Missed. Again!', you know this is a comedy!”

"The knowledge of his [Chekhov] plays nudges me to be more bold – just to mix darkness and light, but I guess that was always in me.”

“I always consider myself as a director who writes, rather than a writer who directs, because directing takes up so much of my time.”

“He [
Stephen Joseph] encouraged me to direct and that is the poisoned chalice for an actor; if you really get the taste for directing, you slowly tire of acting because directing, of course, is global and you have a view of the entire production. Whereas as an actor you’re only in charge of one section of the play – unless you’re one of those actors who gives other actors notes! As far as acting is concerned, once you’ve directed I think the power of it takes over.”