Interview: The Press (13 September 2018)

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

Alan Ayckbourn contemplates dying art of writing in 82nd play Better Off Dead

by Charles Hutchinson

Not in the world of Alan Ayckbourn, whose 82nd work,
Better Off Dead, is concluding the the summer season at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, the scene of so many of his premieres.

"I can remember all the plots, and so when I tackle a new one, I'll be thinking, 'oh, that happened in that one', and so the path of taking a conclusively new path is getting more difficult, and I hope that now some of my plays are getting so old, no critic will remember them all, but at least you'd be plagiarising yourself."

"Given a moment or two, I can even remember all the characters' names, unless they're very obscure, like in some of the children's plays I've written. I sit down with my book of babies' names and go ploughing through the list; certain names are taboo, like people who have done you wrong, though I use their surnames quite often! I know certain names have a certain resonance for me, but now children's first names are often so extraordinary."

"In the new play [
Better Off Dead,], the central character is a novelist, like J K Rowling, and his real name is Algy Waterbridge, which he thought sounded weird, so he's A D Waterbridge instead."

"He's [Algy] a man in his late seventies: I can see people thinking, 'is it autobiographical?'! He's a writer, living in Yorkshire, and the reason I've made him a writer is that one of the themes of the play is, my plays are quite quick in execution, but I've always wondered what I'd be like at writing about a detective character who I'd used for a number of years and now I'm trying desperately to kill him off, but the readers want you to bring him back, and so by the next novel, he's back. I thought, 'how dangerous is it when the writer's alter ego, the character he's created, takes him over'."

"If you're a playwright, you have to live near the centre of a population, but novelists can live in isolation and rarely see their publisher, so I wanted Algy to be almost a hermit, drifting from the realities of his life, such as wife's dementia, to being with his characters, still in the world they were first in."