Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the introduction to the book Audition Speeches For Young Actors, published in 2002.

Out On Your Own

I immensely enjoy writing plays for children, or really what I prefer to call the "family" audience, because it's probably as hard if not harder than writing for adults. You have to be more aware. Children won't lie to you - they judge you immediately. They can get bored very quickly. Adults are polite people normally and if something is a little boring, they'll sit and watch it and think, "Well, it'll get more interesting in a minute." But children just go, "Boring" and turn round and talk to their friends. All the things that matter in any sort of theatre matter twice as much for children. Good story, good dialogue, characters you are interested in. My imagination really catches fire sometimes!

To write for such an audience sharpens your playwriting skills no end. It's affected my adult work, I know. In fact, one such play,
Wildest Dreams - a quite frightening play - is in one sense entirely a children's play. I'd never have written it if I hadn't experienced the thrills and spills of writing for the younger audience.

The shame in this country, of course, is how little importance is attached to children's theatre. It's appallingly under-funded - the companies that do exist providing quality work all year round survive on a shoestring. There are many excellent writers producing scripts for children but there should be many more. But how can there be when they receive precious little monetary reward and hardly any critical acknowledgement?

Young people are the theatregoers of tomorrow, but if they're never given the chance to see exciting, innovative and imaginative theatre in their childhood, how can they develop an interest in watching plays in their adulthood? If we're not careful, they will be lost forever to television, cinema and all those special effects. They will never have experienced the joy of watching something 'handmade' especially for them in one particular place on one particular day. That's what the "liveness: of theatre is about and what we have got to keep alive.

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