Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

These notes by Alan Ayckbourn on the subject of marriage are drawn from correspondence.

Alan Ayckbourn on Marriage

I don't think it's really just marriage I'm a pessimist about. Or, indeed, that I'm such a pessimist as might appear in my plays.

In general I tend to write about relationships that don't work because they are dramatically more interesting. Nothing surely could be more boring on stage than to watch a totally contented couple sitting for two hours sharing a private happiness which, by its very nature, excludes us the audience. There was an exception to this when I tried to write about the most perfect couple, namely Richard and Anthea in Joking Apart. Inevitably, the play became about the other characters, Sven, Olive, Hugh and Louise and their reactions to this perfect happiness.

Secondly, I feel that marriages themselves, contracted as they are mostly at a time when their participants' personalities have barely developed, make quite fearsome demands. Promises of fidelity for periods of sixty or seventy years are for most of us wholly unreal. Even dangerous. Several things can happen. Either, by a miracle, the couple turn out to be perfect for each other or at least develop the fortitude to put up with each other for the rest of their lives. Or they grow dissatisfied with each other but because of their vows determine to stick it out grimly, each nurturing an increasingly suppressed resentment and disappointment as they do so. Or both chose to ignore their vow (or usually one of them does) and settle for a life of extramarital bliss. This probably leads in turn to unhappiness for at least three people, not to mention any children concerned.

Yes, on second thoughts, maybe I am a pessimist.

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