Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

These notes about Joking Apart were written by Alan Ayckbourn in response to enquiries about the play in 1986.

Writing Joking Apart

Joking Apart is a play to which I have a, particular affection. It was an enormous success I remember when we first produced it in Scarborough (though slightly less so when it was subsequently done in London, alas). Which explains why it hasn't done the rounds in quite the same way as some of my others of that period have.

It was written in response to a comment (made half jokingly, I think. I hope.) that it was about time I wrote about the happily married instead of concentrating on all those miserable relationships that seemed to feature so frequently in my plays. I took up the challenge. And a challenge it was. As any dramatist will tell you, the most difficult thing in the world is to mine dramatic material from a totally happy and contented couple. Two people gazing lovingly into each other's eyes can become a trifle tedious after two hours - unless you happen to be one of them.

Still I tried.

Of course what happened was that the central couple - Richard and Anthea - became the catalysts around which everyone else revolved. The rest of the characters, those flawed, frustrated, unfulfilled failures (most of us, in fact) struggled to compete with the golden couple or (as in the case of Brian or Hugh) fell hopelessly in love with them and flew far too close to the sun.

I suppose the play says that, in an imperfect world, the unremittingly perfect can prove just as much a source of unhappiness as it can happiness. For, in the end, we must either attempt to destroy it or reduce it to our level; destroy ourselves through envy or vainly and fatally attempt to compete.

I suppose that, as a theme, it is likely to remain relevant so long as there are people who resent being created unequal and thus can never find it in their hearts to celebrate the good fortune or accomplishments of others.

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