Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

These notes about Sisterly Feelings were written by Alan Ayckbourn in response to an enquiry about the play in 2000.

Thoughts on Sisterly Feelings

Sisterly Feelings is, quite obviously, a play (plays) about choice. The first scene is always constant but, from then on, from the toss of the coin we are off (to some extent) into a journey to the unknown. I think it's important that they're done randomly at least occasionally.

Though it has to be said when we played them both at Scarborough and at the National Theatre we did do every third performance random followed by two fixed. That was so you could be guaranteed to see all versions. In the early days there was one poor man who kept coming on the off chance of seeing the scene in the tent and it took him four visits before he saw it!

It's important that in the playing, the actors get used to varying the material depending on what has come before. Although the respective Act I scene 2's will be played very much the same night after night, in Act II, with the interval second switch, emphases will change. This is especially true of the last scene where there are 4 possible scenarios which could have preceded it. That final scene should and indeed must be varied. We played a game at one stage, I remember, where the company did the scene for me where they had, between them, decided what had gone before. At the end they asked me to guess what might have gone before, simply from the way they were playing it. Good exercise.

As always it needs a lot of disciplined 'straight' playing. Stafford can often go over the top or become a caricature if not approached deadly seriously. The sandwich scenes are a nightmare to start with, partly just to block (though the details are all there in the text) and partly because there are two of them at times so nearly the same and which one are we doing tonight?!

It's another large cast for a play of mine. And it does, in the group scenes, depend on a great deal of group focus and discipline. Where is the ball at this precise moment? Things must never be allowed to get diffused.
Of course, a lot hinges on those two sisters. They were written with a great deal of affection. They should be played with just as much. We need to care about them whether they're at their most solemn or their silliest.

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