Farcicals (2013)

The following interview about Alan Ayckbourn's one act plays, Farcicals, was conducted between Alan Ayckbourn and his archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, in February 2013.

What inspired you to write the Farcicals?
After the darkness that was slowly enclosing my new play Arrivals & Departures and the sea fret over the forthcoming revival Time of My Life, I wanted to find some sunnier places. So out came the Farcicals, first The Kidderminster Affair and then Chloë With Love. They’re fun. I suddenly thought to myself, you mustn’t ever forget the fun!

And, unusually for you, they’re farces.
They’re probably the first one act farces I’ve written since my early days writing in the 1960s; one act farces in themselves are also a complete anomaly - aside from Chekhov. They grew out of Arrivals & Departures, which has lots of short scenes. I was in a short-scene mood - how much story can I tell in a short play? Farces tend to have a classic structure and I wondered whether I could fit all the ingredients I needed in a farce - exposition, denouement and finale - into 30 pages. It’s quite tricky to do, but I was in that miniaturist vein.

One act plays are also unusual for you, did you find them challenging to write?
It’s quite different writing one act plays to full-length plays; there are people who are very good at one acts - John Mortimer was particularly fine at them. It’s like a short story really, it does require a certain mind-set and there’s something interesting about how much information do you need to put in and how much action do you need to have. Normally in a long play, you have a slow release of information but that’s impossible in a one act play, so it was quite an interesting challenge.

What’s the main difference between these and a longer play?
You don’t have any pages to spare to write deep and lasting characters, so they’ve got to be recognisable characters. One man is fairly stupid, another is completely stupid. There’s one woman who’s brighter than most of them - but still not that bright - and another woman who’s completely daffy! So you put them all together and you get the brains of one person, but they take themselves very seriously - which is the whole point of farce!

It sounds as though you enjoyed writing these characters
They are just joyously silly and I love them! They’re sort of timeless farce characters and the most un-urban people you can imagine - they’re completely country people who live in a nice village, untouched by time and mostly unaware of what’s happening in the wider world.

What else can we expect from the Farcicals?
They’ve got a food fight in them, there’s a man who loses his trousers - which has to be in any farce, sooner or later somebody’s got to lose their trousers and a girl’s got to lose most of her clothes or the audience want its money back! I also threw in - just to annoy stage management really - a live barbecue to set off all the smoke alarms in the theatre!

It sounds as though you had a lot of fun writing them and the audience will have a lot of fun watching them.
After Arrivals & Departures, I thought let’s give the audience pud! These are puddings or amuse-bouche if you like, little tasties. They’re the sort of things you’ll go: ‘That was fun’. Of course, there’ll always will be someone who says: “is there any serious content?” to which the answer is “Absolutely not!”

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.