In His Own Words: Miscellany

This page contains miscellaneous quotes (listed by year) by Alan Ayckbourn. 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 get my ideas from my own life experiences. I tend to pile them up like a coffee percolator during the course of a year." (1971)

"Stephen Joseph once gave me this advice: You must have a central character A who wants B and if he gets it it's a comedy and if he doesn't then it's a tragedy." (1972)

"Some critics can't decide whether I'm serious or joking. I suppose the answer is I'm serious about joking." (1973)

"Love is playing with gelignite. Someone always gets his hand blown off." (1974)

"I didn't think you could become a naturalised Yorkshireman in under 50 years. They must have adopted me." (1974)

"When I was an actor in Stoke-on-Trent earning £12.50 a week and with two children we could only afford a tiny flat and my eldest son slept in the bath. I was terrified the tap would spring a leak and flood him during the night so I'd block it all up with eiderdowns and mattresses." (1974)

"I am not very good at funny lines but I am quite good at presenting characters in a situation which viewed from the outside is funny but on the inside isn't." (1975)

"Civic occasions are wonderful in small towns, too, because they don't quite have the Lord Chancellor to organise them. So vases of flowers fall over. Every summer in Scarborough I always go to the Mayor's tent. It always rains, and the Mayor and Mayoress sit there and nobody turns up. There's a great pile of sandwiches, the band's playing, the cricketers are cursing, and everything's a washout." (1975)

"At any of my first nights you'll find me in the bar worrying about the next play." (1975)

"There's a sort of
mafiosi in stage management. You rarely meet a good stage manager who's out of work; where as, of course, lots of good actors are frequently out of work. I'm surprised there aren't more stage managers." (1975)

"I've always thought of comedies as tragedies that have been interrupted." (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)

"I talk to everyone. I talk to inanimate objects. As a writer, one is allowed to have conversations with oneself. What's considered sane in writers is mad for the rest of the human race." (1976)

"I have a built-in cut-off. I can be left. I'm quite happy to sit. If someone goes away and leaves me on my own they can come back days later and find me in the same place. Perhaps I've opened the odd tin of beans. I like the idea of non-productivity. I adore men who make battleships out of matchsticks." (1976)

"I'm not politically anything really. I just write about people as I see them." (1976)

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

"I'd like to sit down at the piano and amaze my friends. I've tried to think of something more original to sit down at, but I'm afraid it has to be the piano - it's difficult whilst playing, say, the French horn, to shrug nonchalantly and murmur, 'Oh, didn't you know…?'" (1978)

"Marriage is not necessarily awful in itself. It's the awfulness of promising to give up one's life to one partner of the opposite sex. A lot of marriages are made at an early age when people should be restrained from making such rash promises. You have not been through marriage until you start hurling things at each other. Particularly if you marry at 19 - you grow up with each other and quarrel like children." (1978)

"I have an inverted snob's view which says that straight plays are written by people not blessed with humour. There's nothing a straight drama has that can't be improved with some comedy." (1978)

"I don't pry at people through keyholes. But I've been to plenty of dinner parties where the host and hostess are dying for you to go home so that they can really kill each other. Sometimes they get a bit twitchy when they realise I'm sitting there drinking it all in." (1979)

"I've been in the theatre most of my life which people tend to think of as exciting: but nothing exciting ever happens in the theatre. But the stories you hear from outside it, about people's relationships and what they've done to each other! Good grief, you don't have to go far to find the utmost drama." (1979)

"Politicians drive me absolutely barmy. I'm an anarchist. I've sat through 15 General Elections and seen the same pattern going on every time. I used to vote. I voted alternately, Labour, Liberal, Conservative. I thought, one of them must be right. All of them were wrong. But this lot are worse than the last lot. The next lot'll be worse than this lot." (1980)

"I prefer where possible to be in places where I can just sit and no-one will take a blind bit of notice of me. Restaurants, I like very much. I'm not much fun to have a meal with because I'm leaning sideways - but the next table's always wonderful! I don't do it too obviously, mind. I say to my companion, 'keep talking - quietly!'." (1980)

"Most of my plays are about what people don't say, because I write about the English, who don't say very much. They imply a lot. And they hint at a lot." (1980)

"Ultimately I'd like to tear the middle out of you at the same time as you laugh helplessly." (1980)

"I have a slightly depressing view of human nature; it doesn't change very much, only the circumstances around it change. I have absolutely no doubt that in a couple of thousand years, assuming the human race survives, people will still be being pretty horrible to each other." (1980)

"I think sometimes I'm like a tape-recorder. You know, I record bits and pieces and then, years later, they come up in one of my plays and I can't remember where I heard them." (1980)

"I've got a great fondness for silent film, all the old classics, particularly the Buster Keatons and the Harold Lloyds and people like that, rather more than Chaplin." (1981)

"At first, I was compared to the other writers the way everyone is. I guess I knew I had arrived when I read for the first time that some poor writer was said to be writing like me." (1982)

"What the extreme left and the extreme right have in common is absolutely no sense of humour. Perhaps I can spread a sense of balance through comedy. I don't think it will do very much. It's like throwing a bucket of sand on a forest fire, but it might serve to save a small proportion." (1982)

"I just hope that in another 400 years my plays will have survived like Shakespeare's." (1983)

"If I have a gift, it is that I can make people laugh and also, I hope, make them think." (1983)

"We are catering to the souls and spirits of people. A country without art of any sort isn't worth living in." (1984)

"The joy of the English language is its infinite capacity for being misunderstood." (1987)

"It will always be the play you least expected to do well that survives and if one is remembered it won't be for the thing you want to be remembered for." (1990)

"We have actually come to the conclusion, Samuel French Inc. and I, that we don't need Broadway that much. We have never pushed any of the plays to be done in the States and just release them [to regional theatres) without waiting for the Broadway production. If you have a play done on Broadway you give away a fair amount of rights to a producer for about 50 years, a huge gift. The rewards from a successful production for a producer are enormous. If he gets a mega hit that is going to run round the country for the next 20 years he probably can retire on it. I don't mind doing that provided I am pretty sure that the show is going to do better than it will if it was released, otherwise why bother?: (1990)

"People do a lot of damage to each other with the best intentions. And I seem to write mostly about that. Love can do a lot of unintended damage." (1991)

“Put three Englishmen on a desert island and within an hour they’ll have invented a class system.” (2002)

"I'm a big Stephen Sondheim fan. Cameron [Macintosh] tried to get us together once, but we were such a jumpy pair, it was destined not to work. We met at a restaurant in Scarborough. I spent my time looking at the floor and he spent the whole time staring at the ceiling. We never made eye contact once. If one of us had left the room, I doubt the other would have noticed." (2008)

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.