Joking Apart (1977)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn as an introduction to the publication Joking Apart And Other Plays.
Just Between Ourselves, Ten Times Table and Joking Apart could be described as the first of my 'winter' plays. Unlike their predecessors, which were all written in late spring for performance during the Scarborough summer season, these three were all composed in December for performance in January. I mention this not because I am a strong believer that the time of the year wields some astrological influence over what one writes (though I would never rule this out either). In a more practical way, though, this shift of my established writing pattern did, to some extent, alter my priorities. By the winter of 1975-6, the Scarborough Theatre-in-the-Round Company which I direct had made its first tentative steps towards a year-round playing pattern. This had long been an ambition of mine. After twenty years or so of being exclusively a summer rep. we were at last establishing some sort of deeper permanency within the town. To encourage and develop our much needed winter audience....
Joking Apart which, at this time of writing, is my latest play and thus, naturally, my favourite of the three. I say naturally, since if it wasn't my favourite, I wouldn't have started it and certainly wouldn't have finished it. I have, at least, to convince myself I'm improving even if I fool no one else. Looking at the play as objectively as I can, I do feel that it does go some way towards combining the truth of Just Between Ourselves with some of the fun of Ten Times Table. Its most significant feature is the time span it covers - twelve years from start to finish. The characters all age from their late twenties to their early forties, save one who starts in her late twenties and retreats to eighteen. For it's important when reading Joking Apart to remember that Melody / Mandy / Mo / Debbie are intended to be played by the same actress.
The play was written when the 38-year-old author was confronted by his eighteen-year-old son, who was suddenly adult and growing more so each passing day. I think with Joking Apart I began to feel my age.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.