In His Own Words: Writing

This page contains quotes (listed by year) by Alan Ayckbourn with regard to writing. They are drawn from a variety of sources and it should always be borne in mind these quotes may not necessarily reflect Alan Ayckbourn's current thoughts on a subject.
"I suppose there must be room for one clown in the writing business. I mean, I know people are dying, but people are also living. And living, at that, in extraordinary and hilarious situations." (1969)

"The light comedy style has evolved out of my own capabilities, my own particular experiences - which happens to be complicated relationships. And other people's are even more funny, so I try to help them laugh about it." (1970)

"I'd like to finish up writing tremendously human comedies - Chekhovian comedy in a modern way." (1970)

"My output's too low. I'm pathologically lazy. I only write one a year and if that happens to flop…" (1970)

"As a result of my acting experience you will never find a 'What say you, m'Lord' bit part in my plays. There are no postmen or butlers. I try to give everyone in the cast a real part. When I was acting and simply standing on stage like a piece of scenery I would start asking myself what I was doing there and wonder whether to walk off." (1971)

"I think of myself as a social writer. I believe the average man is more worried about what socks to wear than the Vietnam War. He has his own little social walls." (1971)

"I was complaining [to Stephen Joseph] about a play I was in, and he said 'if you can write a better one I'll do it'. So I wrote myself a super part, and it went awfully well. The I wrote a second play for me in which I played four parts, and then I wrote a third play for me in which I played eight parts. But I was starting to write better than I could act, so I then wrote a super part and gave it to someone else. Then I gave up acting altogether." (1973)

"Mine is basically a comedy of recognition. I don't write jokes. People laugh because they see things they recognise as familiar." (1974)

"I'm not awfully good at funny lines, which is probably why I've kept away from television, which is much more immediate. I'm rather bad at writing jokes. I'm tending to like more and more the sort of development of character for humour, rather than just simple visual or verbal gags." (1974)

"Writing about a man and a woman who are not married is so limiting. Within marriage there's the stuff of limitless drama." (1974)

"I think every writer ought to have the right to fail." (1974)

"I can't write unless I have a deadline to work to." (1975)

"Theatre is about actors meeting an audience. Ultimately, the audience haven't come to see a director, they haven't come to see a scene designer, they've come to see actors." (1975)

"Harold Pinter has been a great influence on me. Not particularly what he's written about, but the way he's seen things and allowed his own viewpoint on something to warp it slightly. Then there's his love of picking up phrases, like a poet. He finds a phrase like 'going the whole hog'. There's one of those in
The Homecoming. And he just keeps repeating this phrase, which people do in conversation. But then he puts in one too many, which just tips it over into being very funny. That's a trick in a way, but it's also a great ability to hear these phrases and isolate them. Actually, if you listen to a conversation at the next table, which I'm very fond of doing, you may not hear all the words but you'll hear this salient phrase coming back." (1975)

"I'm not really in control these days of how they [the plays] turn out. I just sit down and write. My plays are getting darker and, from my point of view, better." (1976)

"I write quickly and think slowly. For 360 days I think, I work for four and collapse on the other one." (1977)

"I rather thrive on deadlines. I need that pressure physically. I've got too many ideas. Then someone says, well it's got to be delivered on Monday, so you decide and you do it." (1978)

"If you write comedies, you've got to be serious about them and take the characters seriously; and all the best comedy is rooted in deeply serious things, and throws light upon aspects of life we're frightened to think about." (1979)

"My ambition is to write a serious play that everyone laughs at." (1979)

"I am very lucky to be able to write comedy. It is a gift and when you have it, you shouldn't turn your back on it." (1980)

"Thank God P.G. Wodehouse never decided to become a great serious novelist. For me there is little I want to say that can't be said comically. The world needs its P.G. Wodehouses." (1981)

"Writing is the worst bit, a most painful business, very lonely, very desolate. I tend to put writing into as short a time as I can." (1982)
All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd. All quotes are copyright of Haydonning Ltd and credit should be given to 'Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website www.alanayckbourn.net' if reproduced.