Haunting Julia (1999)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for a programme for his own revival of Haunting Julia at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 1999.
I set out to write a ghost story.
I suppose the next best thing, after making people laugh, is to make them jump out of their skins. Always more fun than straight drama where the most you can hope for in the way of a reaction is the soft sound of furrowing brows. Perhaps occasionally, because this is the undemonstrative country it is, you might be lucky enough to catch sight of someone polishing their glasses or blowing their nose - not because they have been reduced to tears, certainly not, but because cold air from the air conditioning has misted their lenses or given them a slight chill.
But after the cut and interactive thrust of live laughter or screams of terror, this is pretty tame stuff. I mean, what is the point of working in live theatre if you don't get equal enjoyment from the audience as well as the performers?
The problem with writing Haunting Julia was that although I set out to write a ghost story, as ever I got distracted on the way. That's always happening. I set out sometimes to write frivolous farces, only one of the characters becomes deeply depressed or threatens to take their own life, and that's that. I set out, on one occasion at least, to write a whodunit (It Could Be Any One of Us) although in the end the prospect of all those clues and motives and false motives and red herrings became altogether less interesting than the characters themselves.
So, although the ghost of Julia still haunts the play, it is really about children, their parents and what they occasionally do to each other and to innocent bystanders - all in the name of love. Not much change there.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.