Ayckbourn Talks: Kalideoscope (1994)

This interview with Alan Ayckbourn was broadcast on BBC Radio's Kaleidoscope in 1994. Within it, he discusses his play Haunting Julia.

“Joe in Haunting Julia is a father whose fault is, I suppose, over zealous for his daughter; it could be any child and it's that great parental problem of how close you get, how protective you get, how much do you choose to stifle one you're so fond of. That's Joe’s tragedy really. His over-protective love. He and his wife Dolly produce / make in Joe's words, this child who comes from ‘God knows where’ who creates music that neither he nor Dolly can appreciate or understand and they can only sit and marvel. They are like the protectors of something they never even asked for.

"I can't imagine writing music, that's why I really went for music in the play because I don't know how people think of music; I think it’s all sort of magic. When people come up to me and say I don't know how you write your plays - well they're perfectly simple when you compare with people who write music.
“One spends a lot of one’s life living amongst your own creations, your own imaginary characters. Indeed I think probably in a minor way, early on in life, I had equally difficult problems adjusting to real people. I suppose the problem with writers, as I tackled in my play
Henceforward..., not only do you have problems adjusting to people but you actually of course steal wholesale from your relationships and bundle them back in the play. I'm sure musicians don't quite do that but they may take emotional feelings back to the music, but because of the abstract nature you don't see your whole relationship portrayed in a symphony; whereas in a play you can often see your whole personal life with someone poured out in front of you.

“There's a psychic - Ken - who Joe's invited along to try to contact Julia, who he is convinced is still in the house. A lot of what Ken [in
Haunting Julia] says comes from me. He does say at one point that most of us don't listen very much. When we are apparently listening to each other, what we're actually doing early on in the conversation, if at all, is thinking what we're going to say next and waiting for a gap to put it in so there's much less communication than we imagine we're having with each other. What he says is if you want to tune to other levels you've actually got to not just stop transmitting but switch over to receive mode, as he calls it, which means actually listening to the silence of the universe and listening to the other voices and listening to what's happening around you.

"You can pick up on moods. I didn't really believe it until recently but I'm aware of sometimes going into the auditorium after the show has finished and there really is a sort of psychic buzz going on; it's like 300 people have left there and there's an echo - that's what it is like ,the echo of the big bang if you like, and there's a feeling particularly from a good house, there's a psychic energy stored up.

We tend to think of Alan Ayckbourn writing about family's but I suppose this is kind of going one step further having half of the family not there.

"Haunting Julia explores the tragedy that parents love their children more than they can ever love them back. It's a kind of secretive play really in which the father is searching for the secret of what happened to Julia - his dead gifted daughter - and you as an audience think, 'thank goodness he won't find out' because she can't stand him among other things even though he adores her and worships her. You don't want that family secret to pop out, because you come to rather like him even though he's a bit of a rather odd character.

“Joe doesn't listen to his wife or - indeed as we watch him during the play - he doesn't really hear very much. But that's perhaps as well, we don't really want him to hear anything [in other words, Julia]. The other people do communicate by the end of the play. It's about communication and the lack of it.”

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.