Interview: The Press (17 July 2014)

This interview was published in The Press on 17 July 2014.

Just A Quickie With… Alan Ayckbourn
by Charles Hutchinson

Plenty of Alan Ayckbourn plays have arrived and departed from the in Scarborough.

Alan Ayckbourn's world premiere of a musical adaptation of his 1998 play
The Boy Who Fell Into A Book opens in Scarborough tomorrow.

In Alan Ayckbourn’s story for children and adults alike, ten-year-old Kevin Carter falls into his book when secretly reading in bed. There he meets his fictional hero, hard-bitten private investigator Rockfist Slim, 220 pounds of solid muscle and now only too real. Together the gallant, if incongruous, pair set out on a quest to save the world, pursued by arch enemy Monique.

What is the story behind this new musical version?
Yes, it’s unusual in that, in a sense, I had nothing to do with it. The lyricist, Paul James, and the composers Cathy Shostak and Eric Angus, contacted me several years ago saying they wanted to do this. They sent me a song and then, a little later on, they sent me another song and I was thinking, ‘this isn’t going to be ready till 2030’! And then last year they contacted me to say they’d finished it. They sent me the script, which I approved and I asked if they’d like to come to Scarborough to play it through for me here. Which they obligingly did and I liked it enough to want to proceed. So I talked to the Stephen Joseph Theatre about doing it this summer.

What happened next?
They asked me to direct it, so we did a workshop in London at the end of last year which seemed to work well. We cut a couple of numbers and put a couple of new ones in where we felt it needed it.

What was it like working with something you had created but which someone else had adapted?
It was very interesting. Paul not only trimmed the book but wrote all the lyrics as well. I think they’ve, all of them, caught the spirit of the play very closely. Paul, Cathy and Eric obviously love the piece. But then you can’t work on something you don’t love, can you, and gratifyingly I think they are as passionate about it as I was when I first wrote the play. As a director, I’ll happily hitch a ride along with that sort of enthusiasm.

Have there been any significant changes to your play?
Not really. It’s stayed very faithful to the original. Tiny things, that’s all. Like the Wooblies becoming the Wubblies; just for rhyming purposes, really.

Who do you think The Boy Who Fell Into A Book will appeal to?
Well, it’s a family show, not a children’s show, it’s definitely more a family show. It’s for anyone who ever secretly read under the bed clothes as a child and who has ever been captivated by a story in a book. In terms of a musical, it’s really quite small scale, in that it doesn’t have a cast of hundreds, but I feel with big potential.

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