Communicating Doors: A Little Thing Entitled… (1994)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the programme for the world premiere of Communicating Doors at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, in 1994.
I have always had a bit of a problem with titles, I have to confess.
Way back in the dark old days when I wrote plays overnight and was in rehearsal the following morning, long ago when at a first reading the cast had no idea whether their character even survived past page ten, in those days the title came well ahead of the play. Advance publicity dictated it did.
Sometimes, if I was lucky, the title still bore some passing resemblance to the play when it eventually got to be written. I was especially proud when I could later weave the actual title into the dialogue of the play itself; Time And Time Again, for instance, or Absent Friends or Just Between Ourselves.
Sometimes, the token title was vague enough to serve whatever I subsequently wrote. Absurd Person Singular was a serviceable, hand-me-down title which I'm ashamed to say one or two students with enormous ingenuity have vainly attempted to link to the play itself. As for Confusions, that can cover virtually anything.
Then there are the ones that got altered - and sometimes altered and then altered. Like my first big West End hit, Meet My Mother. Surely you've heard of that? No wait we changed it, didn't we, to Meet My Father - does that jog your memory?- or maybe, yes, wait, for the West End we changed it again to Relatively Speaking. Or three plays later, The Story So Far... later re-titled, Me Times Me Times Me, later re-titled Family Circles. Or that somewhat unpromising pair, Fancy Meeting You and Make Yourself At Home, a year later re-titled, Table Manners and Living Together which along with Round And Round The Garden came to be known as The Norman Conquests.
Later, as my writing deadlines became fractionally less frantic, I actually had time to consider a title around the same period as I was writing the play. I'm sure I still don't get it right all the time and people are always suggesting better ones - or at least what they consider are better ones. (Inside everyone there's a really good title, longing to come out.) But at least Time Of My Life, Wildest Dreams or Dreams From A Summer House relate in some small way to the contents.
I draw comfort from the fact that there can never, in the entire history of drama, have been more off-the-shelf all-purpose, I-don't-know-what-the-hell-I'm-going-to-write-yet-but-here's-something-for-your-blasted-publicity, than As You Like It, All's Well That Ends Well or Much Ado About Nothing.
Thus I proudly unveil my 46th play entitled A Word From Our Sponsor - sorry - Private Fears In Public Places - no - Communicating Doors. That's the one. Well, it does have doors....
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.