Ayckbourn Chronology: 1986

Notable Events

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During 1986, Alan Ayckbourn…

joined the National Theatre as a company director for two years.

remained the Artistic Director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round with Robin Herford made responsible for the day-to-day running of the venue. He committed himself to returning to Scarborough during 1988.

is - incorrectly - reported to be intending to permanently leave the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round from which he had 'apparently' been financially benefiting. The report is debunked amidst the revelation that he had never drawn his salary as Artistic Director of the venue and had put more than £70,000 and 1% of his gross royalties into the theatre since the late 1960s.

directed Woman In Mind in the West End with Julia McKenzie playing Susan.

appointed Freeman of the Borough of Scarborough.

saw Faber & Faber begin publishing his plays with A Chorus Of Disapproval and Woman In Mind.

had a television adaptation of Season's Greetings broadcast on BBC1 on Christmas Eve.

World Premieres

Mere Soup Songs (Revue)
22 May: Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round

Notable Ayckbourn Productions

Time & Time Again (Revival)
29 May: Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round
Woman In Mind (West End premiere)
3 September: Vaudeville Theatre, London
Tons Of Money (West End premiere)
6 November: National Theatre, London
Mere Soup Songs (West End premiere)
5 December: National Theatre, London

Professional Directing

Woman In Mind
Vaudeville Theatre, London
Tons Of Money
National Theatre, London
Mere Soup Songs
National Theatre London
Time & Time Again *
Mere Soups Songs *

*Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough

Plays In Other Media

Season's Greetings
Television: 24 December, BBC2


"I am fascinated by how tenuous relationships are. Someone can walk into a couple's life and blow everything sky high."
(Yorkshire Post, 31 May 1986)

"For the first two weeks [of writing] there's a brainwashing time when I get rid of everything buzzing round my head. I just unwind, do jigsaw puzzles or play patience or computer games - anything to put my mind out of gear. And then I start."
(Sunday Times, 1 June 1986)

"My characters tend to get angry about tiny things. I think most people do that because they can't cope with huge things - the great mushroom clouds of dust blowing over. They think, well, there's bugger all I can do about that, but I shall continue to get angry with the man next door putting weeds over my fence."
(Sunday Times, 1 June 1986)

"I have this abhorrence of extremism, partly because it's so desperately boring and humourless."
(Sunday Times, 1 June 1986)

"Political theatre is usually so busy being political that it forgets to be theatre…. The best political plays hit you without your knowing it. It's so insulting to be shouted at."
(Sunday Times, 1 June 1986)

"Anything that can't be expressed through comedy I simply leave to others."
(The Observer, 18 June 1986)

"Public school teaches you two main things - never look like anything takes any effort, and if you happen to be ignorant about anything then have the arrogance to think that it doesn't matter."
(The Observer, 18 June 1986)

"I am good at good nights out, but then I firmly believe that the more you make people laugh, the more you make them think afterwards."
(The Observer, 18 June 1986)

"Stephen Joseph once told me that there wasn't anything to directing. 'You just have to create an environment on which people can create.' An easy thing to say, a hell of a thing to accomplish."
(The Observer, 18 June 1986)

"I'm really a director who writes rather than a writer-director."
(Richmond & Twickenham Times, 1 August 1986)

"Writing takes up very little of my time. Most of it takes place in my head while I'm doing other things. The physical art of writing the play takes a week to ten days, so at the rate of one a year, what am I going to do for 51 weeks? I might as well go out and
direct a few plays which I love doing."
(Richmond & Twickenham Times, 1 August 1986)

"I do think I'm a morality dramatist. People do tend to get what they deserve in my plays."
(Richmond & Twickenham Times, 1 August 1986)

"I find a great loneliness in people, a great lack of understanding between people. I tend to emphasise mostly the lack of understanding that exists between men and women."
(Richmond & Twickenham Comet, 14 August 1986)

"I've been moved by more comedies than tragedies. Chekhov's in particular. The sadness only hits you afterwards."
(Sunday Tribune, 17 August 1986)

"The fact is that nice people don't make good theatre. The most difficult thing to write about are people who are totally happy."
(Sunday Tribune, 17 August 1986)

"I strongly believe that writing is a craft and that playwrights don't often write nearly enough early on."
(Sunday Tribune, 17 August 1986)

"My work levels are very high. I get a bit agitated if I am not doing something. Some directors lie down for a year-and-a-half after they have directed a play absolutely exhausted. But I work on the principle that if you keep moving fast enough, they can never all quite get you."
(Daily Telegraph, 22 August 1986)

"There was a feeling that I needed Scarborough as much as Scarborough needed me. Neither is true. Both can survive without the other."
(Daily Telegraph, 22 August 1986)

"I had written a little at school, but it was the rare attitude of
Stephen Joseph that led to my becoming a fully-fledged playwright. He encouraged all his actors to write, and in time, I realised that my writing was improving while my acting remained nothing spectacular. In time, I dropped the one for the sake of the other."
(Worthing Gazette & Herald, 22 August 1986)

"You can get very badly treated as a dramatist unless you take firm control of your affairs. If you do not fight for your commas, you find your sentences are gone."
(Daily Telegraph, 30 August 1986)

"I remember doing a season with Stephen Joseph with one wooden box as all the scenery for every play we did. In the end, the cast asked me as stage manager to intercede. 'The lads feels they have had the box', I told Stephen. 'You had better paint it then' he said. So I painted it red. 'Is that it?' they said. 'Yes', I said. It was bad enough for the actors but the audience came and could not work out whether they had seen it before or not."
(Daily Telegraph, 30 August 1986)

"I direct the plays at Scarborough and the act of writing and directing is actually a continual one. I used to work in longhand, followed by dictation, now I use a word processor, which might have been invented for a playwright, it is so very useful."
(What's On, 4 September 1986)

"I've always directed my own plays, in fact I am probably more experienced as a director than I am as a playwright; I've done hundreds of plays in my time, five or six a year minimum in Scarborough alone. I've worked extensively with classics and new work, which I particularly like."
(What's On, 4 September 1986)

"I am very glad I did act because it has been the most enormous help in giving me insight both as writer and director."
(What's On, 4 September 1986)

"My mother was the uncrowned queen of the women's magazine market. I became used to seeing the family breadwinner working at a typewriter. Finally she brought me a small typewriter to keep me quiet. I banged out derivative high action adventures."
(City Limits, 11 September 1986)

"For better or worse I am middle class. I spent my childhood bang in the centre of the Home Counties as the stepson of a bank manager. Where you were born and how you were raised dictates the voice in your head."
(City Limits, 11 September 1986)

"If you survive you go in and out of fashion. Fashion can't be controlled. After
The Norman Conquests I was splashed across the paper as the greatest comedy playwright since Congreve. Next year the cry was 'How dare Ayckbourn claim he's as great as Congreve!'"
(City Limits, 11 September 1986)

"My favourite writer is Chekhov and I've been getting into Ibsen recently, but I don't want people to think that I've gone into some sort of black Nordic depression. Most human endeavours, including trying to take your own life, does have its comic side. I'm concerned to let the impact of the deed sour the sugar."
(Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 1986)

"It [relationships] is universal. Everywhere you go there are people with unhappy marriages or people who can't cope with life. The idea that plays in which there is laughter are frivolous and can't be serious comes from this country's strong puritan ethic. Imagine a play without comedy. What an unbearable slog the evening would be."
(Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 1986)

"Some writers go out and look for a theme. I've never said: 'Right, now I'm going to write a very serious play about world shipping.' My characters just stagger in and start behaving."
(Today, 9 November 1986)

"My great advantage as a dramatist is my greatest disadvantage as a human being: I have most of the faults of our race all in one person. I often catch myself behaving like my characters."
(Today, 9 November 1986)
All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.