Time & Time Again (1986)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the programme for his own revival of Time & Time Again at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, in 1986.
Time and Time Again I principally remember as the play in which I used water for the first time onstage. It wasn't, of course, the last. It was first produced in Scarborough in 1971, when the in-the-round company were still based at the Library Theatre in amongst the outsize books on the first floor. During the night, after a very happy opening performance, our modest pond leaked slowly through the stage into the Reading Room below, fusing the lights and wrecking the latest copies of Gardeners' Weekly and Bellringers' World.
It was the play, some people observed, when the so-called 'darker' side of my writing started to emerge. Personally, I prefer to regard it as the play when I first began to attend to people as well as plot. It's also a play that up-ends one of the golden rules of play-writing. Deliberately. One safe guide to the creation of a well-made play is to have a central character whose purpose, ambitions, decisions and sheer sense of destiny will drive the piece forward and give the play a unity. If he achieves his aims, so the theory has it, it's a comedy; if he doesn't, it's a tragedy.* In Time and Time Again, we have at the centre a hero with no purpose or willpower whatsoever. A floating, non-voting cross bencher of a man to whom things just sort of happen.
* The theory referred to, and slightly bowdlerised, here is that of the nineteenth century French dramaturge Francois Brunetiere. It is a text which was much loved by the late Stephen Joseph, who translated it into English and propounded it to his students as the most important statement on the drama since Aristotle's Poetics.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.