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Two Interviews:Sir Alan Ayckbourn...page2
written by: Stacey Morley
Interview of July 29, 1997:
A.A.continued-We never really found an audience for February as most people had either frozen in or gone abroad but I think it was a gradual process - we moved - every time I was thinking, 'Well we're in now' something would happen and we moved from The Library in 1977 into Westwood and I did a couple of years at The National but I kept coming back and then I thought well may be it's time to leave, then this place comes up, so, its not been, well I think most people say that they do make terrifically clear, lucid decisions about their lives - it sort of happens and you sort of follow your nose on it. I guess the thing about the theatre that has kept me here too, is speaking as a writer as opposed to director - is, I couldn't have found anywhere better - my output is pretty big - most dramatists with fifty two plays that have had productions here, or a couple of cases in Stoke but mostly here and that is simply by having the continuity of being - of opportunity which most writers don't have - they write the play and send it off and wait, so I've been very lucky and I value it now, but also, if you asked me which I considered myself to be - Writer or Director, it is very hard to say - at the moment I'm a Director, I'm working on somebody else's play - I've tried to put the Writer in me away.
S.M.- Has Scarborough had anything to do with that?
A.A- Well it's a great place to be, yes.
S.M.- You've done so much for Scarborough as far as the tourist industry is concerned.
A.A.- I think most people have a love/hate relationship really, I love it. I would never, well I'd hope I'll never leave it now but occasionally you feel like jumping on it but simply because they play silly buggers with you, like at the beginning of this year with all that funding business - gorging out and all the lunatics come out the woodwork and saying, "No its only for 2% of the population", "Nobody wants it". But I'm so inextricably entwined with Scarborough now - both my kids literally grew up here when they were babies, they went off obviously later but they spent many years here and my eldest son is now back working in the theatre now aged 38/39 so its quite extraordinary, so one has a loyalty to the place so yes its helped. And normally when you work in the theatre you go to a huge urban conurbation. You go to the middle of Birmingham or Manchester, which are great in some ways but I'm a writer and certainly as an individual, I spent my whole childhood in small towns, not cities, as my father was a Bank Manager and seemed permanently posted in Sussex. He used to work in all these places that were sort of small towns which were about the size of Scarborough. So I'm very comfortable - I tend to chronicle more than inner city, urban stuff which has already been very well covered by a lot of writers.
S.M.- My research tells me that you and Stephen Joseph were the founder members of The Victoria Theatre, Stoke on Trent in 1962?
A.A.- Yes, we used to tour there, when we weren't playing here we do a little, we used to have three lorries, well two lorries and a van, we'd bung everything on and we'd head off and one of the places we went to was Newcastle-under-Lyme which is, of course, two feet from Stoke and used to tour in a big place called The Municipal Hall and while we were there Stephen began, as he always did, to investigate the possibility of a home and what happened was he found a cinema which was The Victoria Cinema which he designed and converted into The-Round. The Company virtually split in half, the Scarborough Company sort of withered slightly because the whole grant went with the Stoke operation and there was a couple of years in the early sixties when Scarborough began to look as if it might go, it was run by amateurs, indeed with no professional input at all. Stephen went off to teach at Manchester University so he had very little to do with the opening, he had some fatalistic streak in him, he was more of a pioneer than a finisher. He would sort of start things but rapidly got very bored with it. It was an engaging quality but you had to have people who would pick it up and the other person who was very involved and still is involved, he's leaving this year, was Peter Cheeseman who was in fact my sort of - Stephen was notionally the Artistic Director of the Company - Peter was the General Manager who did direct a bit and I did most of the directing so when we arrived there Peter was the Manager and I was both leading actor and director and I used to alternate with shows, quite exhausting and I was there for two years and we put it on its feet.