The Girl Next Door: Articles

This section contains interviews with Alan Ayckbourn about his play The Girl Next Door. Click on a link in the right-hand column below to access the relevant interview.

This is a short article by Alan Ayckbourn written for members of the Stephen Joseph Theatre Circle during February 2020 offering a glimpse into his thoughts on lockdown and writing a new play for the summer 2021 season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

Thoughts On A Lockdown

Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

Thoughts On A Lockdown

Articles by Other Authors

Lives in Lockdown (Simon Murgatroyd)
So how on earth does a theatre director/playwright, former actor and part-time sound designer occupy himself when denied the essential ingredients for work to continue?

Without working colleagues, actors, designers, stage managers, technicians and – the list is endless – all that’s essential to stage a production? And, most vital for a live production, denied an audience itself?

Like everyone else I decided to keep busy at all costs. Stagnate and die!

Easiest was the determination to continue writing. Even in normal times, of course, a solitary occupation and easy enough to start with but in the end, there are only so many plays you can write without any prospect of production. Stage writing for me is a two-way thing. I have little time for those authors who, when asked who they write for answer, ‘for myself’. In my case the answer is a resounding, ‘for actors and audiences’!

So to fill in time during this momentary literary hesitation, I returned to acting, a craft I hadn’t practised professionally since the early 1970s. Together with my wife, Heather, we set about tackling all eight roles in an audio recording of one of the unproduced plays,
Anno Domino, our contribution to the SJT’s profile raising initiative during the first lockdown. This also allowed my sound designer self a welcome opportunity to practise his craft. Encouraged by the positive response to this, I decided to repeat the experience, this time going it alone (with a little help from the theatre’s chief technician, Paul Stear, and actor Naomi Petersen) with another audio production of my 1990s male three-hander, Haunting Julia, which was aired over Christmas and January.

But enough is enough and acting is far too much like hard work especially for this octogenarian - far too late to start or even to resume a fresh career!

That sad part of me which languished unfulfilled, longing for the company of like-minded others, was the interpreter, my directing self. As the months passed, that empty, silent, dark rehearsal room next door grew increasingly forlorn and neglected.

But a few days ago came a call from Paul Robinson saying that that the SJT was making tentative plans for a limited summer season featuring a new play of mine. I am currently holding my breath (the phrase chicken counting springs to mind) but maybe, possibly, conceivably, perhaps a return to the rehearsal room might be imminent.

As to the play itself? I wrote it back in spring 2020. I like to think of it as a lockdown love story but, as the man said, more than that, I ain’t saying!”

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