Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

These notes on Way Upstream were written by Alan Ayckbourn following an enquiry about his thoughts on the play.

Thoughts on Way Upstream?

I wrote the play at a time when this country seemed to be in a constant state of unrest. Both political parties held extremist positions while the great majority of us stood irresolutely in the middle, reluctant to take a stand. I was also wondering then about the generation before mine who went off to war and who were tested. You often ask yourself if you'd be capable of showing the required courage in such a situation - ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I also wanted to write about good and evil much more clearly than normal.

A boat struck me as a handy symbol of society writ small. I used it as a pretext to examine the nature of leadership.

I have had some alarming experiences on such crafts - I ran my two sons aground on a couple of occasions and I once nearly lost my mother overboard but I am happy to say nothing ever occurred like the events that befall Alistair and Emma.

There are undoubtedly people in life who behave like Keith - those who automatically but erroneously assume leadership. And I think we all know one or two Alistairs and Emmas.

It's difficult to say whether I have a favourite character. All the characters have aspects of me in them - though I hope less of Vince! I think probably Emma. She starts out the complete underdog resigned to a whole voyage of cooking and cleaning. And finishes up as the true captain of the ship.

I wouldn't hope or expect to change society through my plays. I primarily want to entertain but if something rubs off on an audience that makes them think twice, that's no bad thing. A man once said to me, "If I'd realised what I was laughing at, I wouldn't have laughed." That satisfies me.

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