Alan Ayckbourn by Michael Billington (auth.)

By Michael Billington (auth.)

This ebook experiences the performs through Alan Ayckbourn and encompasses a biography, a survey of the performs and specific research of the main major performs, besides dialogue, the place correct, in their political, social, historic and theatrical context.

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But if I had to pinpoint the crucial difference between them, it would be that Ayckbourn is a much more obses:;ive writer: that he cannot keep away from the destructiveness, the incomprehension, the predatoriness of marriage; the failure of men to understand women; the upward social mobility of Thatcherite private businessmen. If there is one obsession that binds together all his work, however seemingly diverse, it is the notion of human desperation breaking through restrictive social forms. Look at Ayckbourn's work in toto and you see that it is about the way we preserve a whole set of rituals - Christmas, family weekends, wedding anniversaries, birthdays, cocktail 51 Alan Ayckbourn parties, monogamy even - which bear less and less relation to our actual needs.

Family Circles is eminently worth reviving because of the insights it offers into Ayckbourn's progressive disenchantment with matrimony and because much of it is ghoulishly and uproariously funny. But I also feel Ayckbourn learned from it that there comes a point when the technical wizardry (if not the kissing) has to stop. Despite the failure of Family Circles (then sailing under the title of The Story So For) to make it into the West End Ayckbourn had by 1970 established an enviable reputation as the commercial theatre's hit-man: a salvation from Scarborough at a time when Shaftesbury Avenue was suffering from creeping inanition.

I myself blush to recall writing around this time that Ayckbourn's prime achievement was to write dazzling comedies without the safety net of social comment. I was wrong. Indeed we were all wrong. Because Ayckbourn relied on time-honoured comic devices such as sustained misunderstanding (Relatively Speaking), because he rewrote the geography of stage comedy (How The Other 47 Alan Ayckbourn Half Loves), we all assumed that he was simply an ingenious manipulator and a skilful comic carpenter with nothing much to say.

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