Snake In The Grass (2002)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the programme for the world premiere of Snake In The Grass at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2002.
A few years ago I wrote a short play called Haunting Julia. It was a departure for me on two counts. It had a cast of only three men, the first time I had written a 'single sex' play, and it was, in part at least, a ghost story.
Here, eight years later, is its 'sister' counterpart Snake In The Grass.
On the whole, the scholarly departments of the literary and dramatic worlds tend to be a little stuffy about certain genres of fiction. Crime novels, science fiction stories and, in theatre, comedies or farces as well get easily dismissed as if they were some alternative easy option to the real thing; the poor relations of serious, heavier literary or dramatic works. I'm still recovering from the question asked of me by a journalist (some years ago admittedly) as to whether I had any ambitions to write a serious play. I have this maxim that to be truly respectable as a comic dramatist you need to have been dead preferably for several hundred years. Once time has rendered all the best jokes completely unintelligible, then the scholars really come into their own.
As for the humble thriller, those are the ones many read or watch but few ever own up to, of course.
Yet it seems a curious distinction to make. Can't serious things be said equally validly whilst gripping, bewitching or reducing an audience to tears of laughter?
Can't a ghost story also reveal insights into human nature?
The answer is, of course, yes. Just as, conversely, a so called 'serious' piece of work can occasionally end up saying absolutely nothing of any relevance so a good detective thriller can often say a good deal.
Over the years, I've explored most genres one way or another. The thriller with plays such as It Could Be Any One Of Us and The Revengers' Comedies; science fiction with Henceforward..., and Callisto#7 and, with Communicating Doors, both those genres simultaneously. Historical romance? Well, maybe one day.
This is my second ghost play. Or is it? Not altogether. Not in the conventional sense, anyway. After all, most ghosts we encounter are not wailing nuns or headless monks. The phantoms lie within us, born out of a past that continues to haunt us; suppressed memories that grow into nightmares out of our own imaginings as we lie awake in the darkness. Is there someone else here with me? Whose breath is that on my face? Dare I open my eyes? Open them even the tiniest ... tiniest... ? BOO!
Hope you enjoy it, thank you for coming and I promise, if you’d rather, I won't tell a soul you've been.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.