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By Michael Billington (auth.)

This booklet experiences the performs by way of Alan Ayckbourn and contains a biography, a survey of the performs and special research of the main major performs, besides dialogue, the place appropriate, in their political, social, historic and theatrical context.

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Extra resources for Alan Ayckbourn

Sample text

What exactly is that comic purpose? Part of it is immediately established in the first scene with the class contrasts between the Foster and Phillips households. The Fosters, an apparently childless, well-to-do-couple, lead good-tempered lives in which even the wife's coming home drunk at two in the morning is not something enquired into 33 Alan Ayckbourn too rigorously. The Phillipses, on the other hand, are messy, rancorous and typically middle-class with the sociallyconcerned wife endlessly filing articles from the Guardian and the husband snappishly objecting to peanut-butter sandwiches for breakfast.

SHEILA: He probably did the same to her. PHILIP: That's possible. PHILIP: By any standards, this is first-rate dramatic irony. Philip is discussing their marriage directly: Sheila quite indirectly. But both are disclosing obliquely their real feelings about each other. Ayckbourn, on the whole an observer of human frailty rather than a conscious moralist, comes close to judging Philip as a selfish, philandering prig. Ayckbourn is not, as his later work proves, puritanically hostile to adultery, merely to the egoistic exploitation of one human being by another.

J. B. Priestley in his 1930s time plays questioned the notion of sequential, chronological time while always sticking within the cosy framework of stage convention. Ayckbourn (without being a Shakespeare or a Pirandello) breaks all the rules of theatre, however, by simultaneously showing us two different events on two different nights in two different places. That is supreme technical virtuosity. But what matters is that he shatters the conventional rules without losing sight of his fundamental comic purpose.

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