Life & Beth (2011)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the introduction to Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 5.
In my final year as Artistic Director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre before retiring, I had planned a small scale season with a revival of the two linked plays Haunting Julia and Snake in the Grass, the two separate companies playing in and out of rep with each other. In order to utilise the two companies, who would otherwise be in terms of performance numbers considerably under-used, I came up with the solution of combining both, the three men from Haunting Julia and the three women from Snake In The Grass, for a third six-handed companion piece, Life & Beth.
I sensed, given the dark nature of its two predecessors that Life & Beth should be an altogether lighter-hearted ghost story. It’s about completion, saying a final goodbye, in this case after a long marriage together. Recently widowed, Beth has loyally enjoyed and then latterly we suspect endured her long and rather dull, hum-drum marriage. Initially the departure of Gordon, her pernickety, overbearing former Health and Safety Officer has left a considerable gap in her life. After all, especially for the past few years, her life has been his life as his nurse, his foil and domestic skivvy. As the play opens, Beth is facing her first Christmas alone without Gordon. Her friends and family rally round assuming Beth, having been little more than a glorified extra limb for her husband, will be lost without him. But on the contrary, Beth is on the brink of coming to terms with her new life. Until a well-meaning prayer by a sympathetic clergyman brings Gordon back for a final time … secretly I dedicated it to all those (‘oh, she’ll be lost without him’) widows I have known, who have, in the words of the song, picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and started all over again."
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.