Relatively Speaking (1977)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the programme for his own revival of Relatively Speaking at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, in 1977.
In general, the people who liked this play when it was first seen remarked that it was 'well constructed'; those that didn't called it old-fashioned. If the latter is true, then I suppose it's because, as the song goes, I am too. As to whether it's well constructed, well, in a way I hope it is, since I did set out consciously to write a 'well made' play. I think this is important for a playwright to do at least once in his life, since as in any science, he cannot begin to shatter theatrical convention or break golden rules until he is reasonably sure in himself what they are and how they were arrived at.
And this knowledge is really only acquired as a result of having plays produced, torn apart and reassembled by actors and held up to public scrutiny for praise or ridicule. I suppose I am extremely lucky, writing for a small theatre company as I did for so many years, to have had almost a dozen plays put through this very process before reaching the age of thirty. Not only this, but to have had to fight all the limitations of a small theatre - the number of actors available, difficulties of staging, even lighting complications - and, most important, being aware that if my play didn't at least break even at the box office, we'd all be out of a job on Monday. I wrote, in a sense, to order, and there was no harm in this, since the order was always of a technical nature and dealt only minimally with content. But there is no sharper lesson for a dramatist than to find himself sharing a dressing room with an actor for whom he has written an impossible quick change.
I wrote this play originally as a result of a phone call from the late Stephen Joseph, a truly remarkable man of the theatre, without whose unrelenting deadlines this would never have been written and to whom I dedicate the play, sadly, but with great affection. He asked me then simply for a play which would make people laugh when their seaside summer holidays were spoiled by the rain and they came into the theatre to get dry before trudging back to their landladies. This seemed to me as worthwhile a reason for writing a play as any, so I tried to comply. I hope I have succeeded.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.