A Chorus Of Disapproval (1995)

This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the introduction to Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 1.

A Chorus of Disapproval had a curious start. I wanted to write a play about an operatic society, heaven knows why. My first idea was to pen something for a large cast, using professional principals and a supporting cast of dozens of amateur singers. The latter would be seated in the auditorium, to all appearance like members of the audience, but they would from time to time during the action stand up and sing some linking comment or other like an operatic Greek chorus. I planned to base the play around a presumed production of The Vagabond King. I had read the libretto and I confess it amused me no end, particularly its choreographic stage directions.
Several things conspired to thwart the original idea. The Rudolph Friml Estate, fearing for their play, refused to release the rights. For which I didn't blame them one bit. Simultaneously, those members of the local Scarborough Operatic Society whom I had approached seemed reluctant to accept anything but leading roles, for which I didn't blame them either; and finally Equity, the Professional Actors' Trade Union, declared the whole idea of including amateurs in this way unacceptable. Which forced me into swift solutions, all of them, it transpired, blessings in disguise.
First I decided to work with an entirely professional company and thus with a much smaller cast; sensible and far more economic. Secondly, to avoid further copyright problems, I found an author who had been dead so long that he and his relatives no longer cared. Which led me to a musical play I greatly admired and had always wanted to produce, Gay's
The Beggar's Opera. Which in turn provided the missing piece to the whole venture. Gay's play had a plot which echoed almost perfectly the one I intended to write and provided the perfect mirror image on which to build my own dramatic structure.
Moral: always work with something you admire and not with something which you only set out to make fun of. That way you might even manage to raise your game rather than lower it.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.