The Revengers' Comedies: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn"I've made it to 50, so I thought I'd give people a present. You can't have an 'event' every year, or they become ordinary - but every two or three years, I like to do something a bit different like The Norman Conquests, or Intimate Exchanges. This one is a bit of an epic."
(Scarborough Evening News, 2 March 1989)
"All the rules say comedies last 90 minutes. The tragedy boys have had the monopoly on longer plays, so here we are trying to break the rules."
(The Stage, 8 June 1989)
"I wanted to do a big show, an event and you need to really challenge yourself now and again, otherwise you tend to churn out the same stuff....
"You cannot actually sustain this length of play on a sit-com level, it just isn't possible. You must bring into play a whole breadth of emotions. These are two of the most complex people [Henry & Karen] I have ever written because I have been allowed to write them out over such a period of time."
(Scarborough Evening News, 31 May 1989)
"I wanted to write a play about a man who picks up a stray kitten and finds it's a boa constrictor instead.... My alter ego Karen is completely off her trolley. In theatre, there's humour between the cracks of the horror. I'm fascinated by treading that razor-blade."
(Daily Express, 16 October 1989)
"It had to be two plays, because the structure is so massive. And the plays are in sequence, so you really can't see one without the other. The thing is, I've re-discovered narrative through writing plays for young audiences, who demand a good story....
"Many of the classic plots were based on revenge, as the strongest motive available - apart from love. It provides a good platform for a big play. And it seems to be happening in real life. One reads more newspaper stories these days of wives setting fire to their husbands' mistresses' clothes. It's come back into vogue, like Alsatians biting people."
(Sunday Times, 29 September 1991)
"I just think it's [revenge] a terribly strong emotion, it's a dangerous emotion, it's as strong as love. It's based on love which turns to hate. It's obsessive, it refuses to see reason. The revenge of normal people lasts about 20 minutes. You have an instinctive fury about what someone's done to you, but with most of us, thank God, the emotion passes. Otherwise there would be very few people left alive. This play is about somebody who doesn't let it go, who actually manufactures it, who enjoys it. I've never had any desire for revenge, but I have a tremendously fiery temper, particularly when I was a child. I used to attack everybody, kick park-keepers, punch passers-by, doctors, people in shoe shops. I was a really wild kid, I'd take on anybody. In order to write plays, you have to have quite a bit of anger. I said jokingly one day, but I think it's true, that many a good writer has gone to the dogs because he became a vegetarian. It makes sense, because vegetarianism makes you much calmer and that's the one thing I never want to be. You use anger as a motor and from writing you sometimes find peace with the world. Writing is my form of vegetarianism."
(Daily Mail, 7 October 1991)
"I defy anyone to make them one play. The thing is, they are what they are: four rather jolly, long acts for two evenings. I'm rather defensive about my plays these days and don't make many changes in rehearsal. In the early 1970s, I was similarly pressured to not make The Norman Conquests three separate plays. But I stuck out. And so, to his credit, did Codron [the London producer of The Revengers' Comedies, Michael Codron], who is similarly loyal now."
(Unknown publication, 1991)
"I hope it says something about the human condition, but I wrote it for fun, really. I was suddenly aware that everyone was asking me, 'What issue are you going to address with this play?' And I don't want to address an issue. I want to tell a story; I want to write a good thriller, which is sort of unfashionable now. Nobody ever asked what issues Alfred Hitchcock addressed. He just addressed the idea of scaring you."
(The Christian Science Monitor, 4 December 1991)
"[The Revengers' Comedies is] a four-act play with a convenient division. The belief is that we are in a disposable culture where everything has to tie in to that mythical short attention span. Audiences respond to what seems special. People do love the new, the exciting, the original; they really do enjoy it."
(The Weekend Australian, 21 December 1991)
"I have never read The Revenger's Tragedy though obviously the title was the inspiration for The Revengers' Comedies. John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's A Whore which I directed at the National Theatre in 1989 was the play that most influenced me. It was my first fray into directing Edwardian drama and I was thrilled by the knife edge quality of the writing - the comic paralleling the tragic throughout the work. That exciting dark / light balance was lost for a long time - certainly in English drama - after that period. I wanted to write an equivalent play on a grand scale set in the present day. If there are links, well and good, for that was my intention - certainly as regards construction and balance of emotion. Of course the initial premise of swapped revenges I borrowed shamelessly from the classic film Strangers On A Train.
(Personal correspondence, 7 March 1994)
"[The Revengers’ Comedies] I intend as a sort of fiftieth birthday present. I can’t think who on Earth the present is aimed at. Certainly not myself - the thing is a technical nightmare and puts years on me. In two halves, four parts, thirty scenes, playing time well over four hours, often on a single day with Glyndebourne style intervals. We all lose a lot of weight this summer. I eat a lot of cold salmon. The production is, incidentally, the first Scarborough collaboration of my regular design team, Roger Glossop (settings) and Mick Hughes (lighting). We actually finish up having a lot of laughs."
(‘Celebrating 20 Years At Westwood’ souvenir programme)
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn