Alan Ayckbourn on Writing (—)

I was born as a writer, as it were, at an interesting time in British drama. The crossroads of the New Wave dramatists had just appeared - John Osborne had arrived in the middle fifties - when I was starting to write, thus I had role models, like Harold Pinter, who were very important. But also I learned to respect and admire some of the older generation, the writers who were then being thrown out in favour of the new - they've now been re-established. We know that theatrical fashion can do that. A whole load of good work is discarded. Both affected me, and I developed out of those different but parallel styles. I was in love with the theatricality of the theatre; I didn't want to lose it and become totally naturalistic. What actors discover when they study my dialogue is that, at first sight, it looks almost as if I'd made it up as I went along. It has a sort of artlessness about it, but as they examine it more closely, I think they discover that it is actually quite carefully structured, and the choice of words is very precise. I find actors always say to me, that if they learn it right, it is very easy to say, but that if they have mislearned it in any way and are putting in different words of their own, they find it terribly hard to play, and I'll often say rather gently, "Well, I think you're having difficulty with the speech because you're putting two extra words into the sentence and they are unbalancing the sentence." All that is a sort of "artless art" if you like, because the result often has, to the audience, the appearance of being spontaneous when it is actually quite carefully plotted.

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