Joking Apart: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

"I think it is a bit different to anything I have written before. For one thing there is the time span.... Better comedy writing is always an inch away from being tragedy. I try to tread the tightrope. I think in this case the rope is fairly good, but I never really know where the balance is until I see the audience reaction. People could well see a darker side to it. Another thing about this play is that it could not be written by anyone under 38 years old. Suddenly I have written a middle-aged play. One doesn't realise time has flown. I think of the '60s as being yesterday, but already actors are writing to me who were born at the end of the 1960s.... The play is a sort of look back over the last twelve years."
(Scarborough Evening News, January 1978)

"I announced the title of Joking Apart, in December, and didn't start writing it until the middle of January…. Joking Apart really came out of the realisation that my eldest son was eighteen, able to vote, buying me pints, old enough to drive me about in his own car. I suddenly caught up with the passage of time. I am 38. It's quite a shock. Until now my plays have always been on a very limited time scale, but I set this one over 12 years, hoping to show what time does to people just by passing. For the first time I'm feeling it touch me."
(Daily Mail, 28 February 1978)

"They're [Richard and Anthea] perfect because they have wonderful kids, they mange to buy a house in the country for an absolute song and they always know a little man round the corner who can do a repair job. But having created such paragons, I wanted to know what effect they would have on other characters."
(The Scotsman, 24 February 1979)

"The snare of the play, I feel, is to mistake it as being a play about Richard and Anthea when they're really only the catalysts that spark off the misery in all the others - who are the central characters. The importance, having said that, is to give Richard and Anthea effortless ease and charm so that we can see why everything's happened - and how easily people fall under their spell. They're never really aware of the problems of others. They're certainly not vindictive. They're just winners."
(Personal correspondence, 1983)

"I suppose the play [
Joking Apart] says that, in an imperfect world, the unremittingly perfect can prove to be just as much a source of unhappiness as it can happiness. For, in the end, we must either attempt to destroy it or reduce it to our level; destroy ourselves through envy or vainly and fatally attempting to compete. I suppose that, as a theme, it is likely to remain relevant so long as there are people who resent being created unequal and thus can never find it in their hearts to celebrate the good fortune or accomplishments of others."
(Personal correspondence, 1986)

"What's interesting about partnerships that have been going for a bit is the way each outthinks the other, you know, or just anticipates the other. Finishes the sentences for them, repeats them. In
Joking Apart, it's the first time I really explored this; couples often play different dialogues in public to what they play in private. They have a sort of 'public jokey style' which is almost played out front to you, and you think 'my goodness, they're trying to entertain me'... and you find yourself smiling perpetually."
(Artscene, July 2002)

"The misunderstanding of the play is that people often think I was writing a play about Richard and Anthea: I was writing a play about Sven, about us, about the inequalities of life. Why the hell should someone be born with less ability than another? Some people seem, in our lives, to have a natural aptitude for everything - everything they touch....
"I wanted to avoid a 'happy marriage' [Anthea and Richard are living together, having never married]. I wanted to give them a grounding of less than conventionality. There's a suspicion that Anthea wasn't happy in the past, that things haven't always been that incredible: it was the mating of Richard and Anthea - a second time round, in fact - that fused into a sort of ideal oneness where everything came right for her."
(Interview with Alan Ayckbourn from Ian Watson's Conversations With Ayckbourn)

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn.