Arrivals & Departures (2013)

This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the programme for the world premiere of Arrivals & Departures at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2013.

I was interested in writing about lives in transit. How some of the most significant things for me, many of my most vivid memories right back to early childhood have occurred at railway stations or airports or coach termini or even isolated country bus stops.
Waiting, a bored seven year old with my friends for the school coach which was never on time. My tearful mother waving equally tearful me off to boarding school at Kings Cross. The interminable midnight waits for late connections at anonymous deserted airports when one could almost swear that time had stopped altogether. The anxious wait at Victoria coach station for a loved one. Will she come or won’t she?
The older I get the more I realise how true is the old aphorism, ‘memory plays strange tricks’. The tricks it plays, too, are curious and often frustrating. Search for a specific memory, a precise moment from your distant past, one you urgently need to remember and you will often search vainly for hours, sometimes days on end. But then would you believe, as like as not, another quite different memory totally uncalled for will present itself, a visual image, a name, a title or a forgotten tune like an expectant wet puppy at the back door of your consciousness, eager to be let in.
Arrivals & Departures is the result of all of these thoughts. And more. It’s a series of those mental snapshots, each lasting in reality probably only a second, coming and going in the subliminal blink of an eye, now you see them, now you don’t, sometimes gone for ever. For the sake of the play on this occasion I have, as with Japanese dried flowers, unpacked them slightly, given them water and allowed them to unfurl a little.
Nor are they strictly my own memories any longer. Well, only fragments of them. Strictly they belong to Ez and Barry, initially strangers and destined to remain so, these incongruous travellers have both arrived at their separate crossroads, she at the start of her life, he towards the end of his.
Both carry private snapshots of their own which we share with them. Moments in their lives which leap suddenly and clearly into their conscious, unexpected and uninvited as usually happens.
And while they remember, the chaotic, surreal but all too real tragi-farcical world surges and swirls around them both. All in a railway station, of course.

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