Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

This extract about Absent Friends was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the preface to Three Plays, published in 1977.

Preface to Three Plays (extract)

Absent Friends, first produced in Scarborough in 1974, followed The Norman Conquests, which to all intents and purposes was the end of my exploration of offstage action. Three plays, two of which were happening offstage simultaneously with the one onstage, were quite enough.

Absent Friends was almost a drawing-in of forces. It was significant for me in several ways. Its use of time, for one. The stage action matches real time almost second for second. Most plays have their own time span where hours or months can pass quite happily in the space of minutes. Absent Friends' time span, being what it is, had the intended consequence of making the play far more claustrophobic, almost oppressive.

Its single set, its small detailed action, helped. It is a play for a small intimate theatre where one can hear the actors breathing and the silences ticking away. It was a terrifying risk when it was first produced. I'd never pitched anything in quite such a low key before.

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