Ayckbourn Chronology: 1999

Notable Events

During 1999, Alan Ayckbourn…

was named as the 14th most influential playwright of the 20th century in a survey by the National Theatre. The Norman Conquests was listed as one of the greatest plays of the century.

directed Comic Potential in the West End with Janie Dee scooping the Olivier, Evening Standard & Critics' Circle Awards for Best Actress.

adapted Ostrovsky's The Forest for the National Theatre.

announced he would no longer be directing plays by other authors in order to concentrate on his own writing.

celebrated his 60th birthday with House & Garden at the Stephen Joseph Theatre; two plays with the same cast running simultaneously in two auditoria.

learnt his plays were now part of the UK national curriculum.

lost his mother, Irene Maud Worley (also known professionally as Mary James), who died on 26 February.

Revised and revived the 1990 plays Body Language & Callisto#5 (now Callisto 7) for the SJT.

wrote Gizmo for the New Connections 99 festival.

saw frequent design collaborator Michael Holt's book Alan Ayckbourn (Writers And Their Work) and A Guided Tour Through Ayckbourn Country by Albert-Reiner Glaap published.

saw York Notes On Absent Friends published by Longman.

saw Faber & Faber publish Comic Potential. Samuel French publish Things We Do For Love & Gizmo.

World Premieres

The Forest (Adaptation)
28 January: National Theatre, London
House & Garden
17 June: Stephen Joseph Theatre

Notable London Productions

Haunting Julia (Revival)
10 February: Stephen Joseph Theatre
Haunting Julia (Tour)
16 February: UK tour produced by Stephen Joseph Theatre
Body Language (Revival)
24 August: Stephen Joseph Theatre
Comic Potential (West End premiere)
13 October: Lyric Theatre, London
Callisto#7 (Revival)
4 December: Stephen Joseph Theatre

Professional Directing

Comic Potential
Lyric Theatre, London
House & Garden *
Haunting Julia *
Body Language *
Callisto#7 *
Knights In Plastic Armour *
Haunting Julia
UK tour

* Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Plays In Other Media

Season's Greetings
Radio: 26 December, BBC Radio 4


"The most unaffected of all [the Royal family] is the Queen Mother, she just greets you with a big hello and you tend to forget who she is. They used to quite often nip down from Windsor to the local theatre to see my shows, and I remember on one occasion they went to see a show of mine called Time and Time Again, about a suburban drop-out who spends his time sitting in the garden talking to a garden gnome. At the end of the run, we got a request from the palace saying they'd like to purchase the gnome because the Queen Mother wanted it for her garden."
(The Warwick Boar, 16 February 1999)

"My plays have been translated into dozens of languages now, but it is the American chasm that is the biggest. You know, two nations divided by a common language. We're very different. For a long time I got mistaken for an English Neil Simon but I don't do the same sort of fast quips and one liners that he does, and the American audiences were looking in vain for the similarities in our plays. So that transition was quite a tough one. Where I work best in America is not on Broadway, it's everywhere but."
(The Warwick Boar, 16 February 1999)

Harold Pinter was asked by somebody how he wrote, and he said: 'Well, I just get a bunch of chaps in a room and then see what happens,' which, of course, is a monstrous lie - he spends a lot of time plotting. But hundreds of young dramatists of the time who were admirers of Pinter thought: 'Right!' But the point is, bugger all happens [if you just do that]: the characters all sit there, saying: 'Er ... walls, eh?'"
(Financial Times, 10 April 1999)

"The extraordinary
Stephen Joseph, who really broadened my horizons, because he took me on as a stage manager but both encouraged me as an actor and also began to demand that I wrote. He had this unheard-of theory that the writer belonged inside the fabric of the theatre and not in a cottage in the Orkneys, and because he couldn't actually afford to employ writers, he had to get them from the inside."
(Financial Times, 10 April 1999)

"Most people are lured into theatres by promises of entertainment. But they don't actually thank you if in the end all you give them is entertainment, a meal with absolutely no substance. You've got to bring an audience into the theatre, but at the same time, you and your colleagues do not want to be soiling your hands doing light-headed crap. You've got to balance content with appeal. If you do want to write a brutal play about rape, there's got to be elements about it that people want to come and see. That's a fascinating challenge."
(The Herald, 22 June 1999)

"I always think that I'm entirely a creation of other people's opinions. People argue furiously about whether the plays are serious or just funny but I've never made any claims for them. I just write them."
(The Guardian, 30 June 1999)

"In the end anyone can tell a story. It's how you tell it that's important."
(The Guardian, 30 June 1999)

"I want to make theatre as fun as possible for the audience. The theatre needs its inspired nonsense - and I like to think my plays make their contribution. Fun doesn't have to mean mindless fun."
(The Guardian, 30 June 1999)

"As I was reaching 60, I decided I do rather a lot and I thought I want to slow down, partly because I don't want my own writing to lose out. So what will tend to happen is I'll direct less of the new work. I'll get other directors to direct the new writing and I will still encourage it. Doing work by other people is quite energy-consuming, as you have to put that much effort into the play, particularly by very new writers who are busy worrying about their work."
(Scarborough Evening News, 22 September 1999)

"When I finish a play, there is a moment of euphoria and then one of panic, a kind of loneliness because there are no ideas. And then a little head pops up."
(Sunday Telegraph, 3 October 1999)

"We all thought it [Pinter's second production of
The Birthday Party in which Ayckbourn played Stanley] was completely mad, new and weird, but his passion and certainty drove us through, and when it opened it was electrifying. I've been very influenced by Pinter, his patterns of repeated words, missing words. Often there's a sort of blandness on the page which conceals a tension when it's acted."
(Sunday Telegraph, 3 October 1999)

"If you do something for long enough, you do become pretty adroit at it."
(Sunday Telegraph, 3 October 1999)

"The best comedy is when you come out in the interval and you say to someone, 'Did you see that?' And, of course, they did. But it was so delicately done, the actors and the director have been clever enough to put it just so you couldn't miss it, but you still felt it was meant for you. It's terribly important, we need to laugh."
(Sunday Times, 3 October 1999)

"What I find interesting is how close you can run the laughter along the seam of seriousness, and occasionally cross it, so that half the house genuinely doesn't know whether to laugh or cry."
(British Airways Business Life, November 1999)

"In general, we need laughter in our lives. It allows people to view things they might otherwise shut their minds to."
(British Airways Business Life, November 1999)

"Early on in my career I was an
actor and a stage manager. I read (and acted in) many plays. I think all of these had some influence. The good and the bad. Certainly Chekhov, Coward, Rattigan, Pirandello, Anouilh from earlier generations plus Harold Pinter and many of my contemporaries influenced me."

"In playwriting the only thing you can't plan for is the first idea. Once you have that (inspiration, perhaps?) you have to work to develop it. Choose the space, the form, the time frame in which to set it - what I call the when, the how and the where. The nuts and bolts, if you like. Playwriting is above all a technical skill."

"To write truthfully about people, it is important that it's written from inside you. From the heart, if you like. Good comedy - good tragedy, too - relies on the audience believing the characters. When they believe they care. When the audience care, they laugh and cry for the characters."
All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.