Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

This article about Sugar Daddies was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the introduction to Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 3 in 2005.

Preface to Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 3 (extract)

Sugar Daddies contains a major central female character, this time one very much onstage, indeed rarely off it.

It is true to say I rarely write roles for individual actors. I find it a dangerous practice and one that can easily lead, especially if the two of you have worked together before, to my writing entirely within that performer's known capabilities. Whatever they bring to the part, however exciting, is as a result anticipated and predictable. It's really no more than a form of type-casting. Whereas the exciting and rewarding times, I find - and I refer here to my role as a director with actor rather than an author with actor - are when the actor and I jump off together into the unexplored, hopefully to discover the surprising.

However, on this occasion, I had been working with a young actor over a number of productions and, this being my fifth new play on which we would be working together, I thought it worth breaking the rule and creating a role I felt would exploit her distinctive talents. The actor was Alison Pargeter and the role was Sasha. Alison up to the time we first met had concentrated her career, mainly owing to her height and youthful appearance, on playing children or teenagers. Indeed, her first appearance for me was in a family musical, Whenever, which I wrote with composer Denis King, in which she convincingly played a nine-year-old in the main to audiences of a similar age. The following year, during the
Damsels in Distress trilogy I advanced Ali's playing age via a spoilt teenager, to a twenty-year-old heroine, then a hard-bitten thirty-five-year-old former lap-dancer. On reflection, I could probably have been prosecuted for deliberate corruption of minors.

Sugar Daddies, having established that Ali could scale this challenging age range, I decided to create a role for her in which all those elements were combined in one character. The theme was a twist on the familiar one, much beloved by the French dramatist Jean Anouilh, in which innocence is gradually corrupted. Sasha's chance meeting with a Father Christmas, a near hit-and-run victim, develops by degrees into a long, initially tender, increasingly sinister relationship; the awkward girl from the country meets a guardian uncle who turns out to have a past (and possibly even a present) which all but destroys her. Sasha makes this dramatic, potentially fatal journey not just as a result of her new-found companion but because of the discovery of the darkness which lies within herself. It's a play about deception, about the face many of us consciously choose to show to strangers. In the menacing Uncle Val's case, the mask soon becomes apparent, as phoney as his Father Christmas beard. But Sasha, too, in her own way, also opts to ignore or hide aspects of herself. Aspects' she cares not to acknowledge or show to others.

Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.