The Girl Next Door: Interviews

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 interview between Alan Ayckbourn and his Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, which took place on 20 April 2020 discussing general hopes for the play and theatre following the COVID pandemic of 2020/2021.

The Girl Next Door: Simon Murgatroyd Interview with Alan Ayckbourn

Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

Interview with Simon Murgatroyd
Radio York interview
Simon Murgatroyd: The Girl Next Door is your first post-Lockdown play, what were you hoping to achieve with it?
Alan Ayckbourn:
Hopefully, The Girl Next Door will be not be out of tune with the mood of the audiences as it is at the moment in that it is a cheery, slightly bitter-sweet, but - nonetheless - a non-down ending so at least, possibly in tone, it is fitting for the time.
One’s tendency was to reflect one’s down mood but then my instinct was, come on, no-one wants to be added to. We need a bit of cheering up and a morale boost.

What is the play about? What's its theme?
The theme the play is that despite all these setbacks - World War II and viruses - that love will carry on and it survives generations and it survives disasters and then, hopefully, it will always stay there despite the muddying circumstances of the time.
There’s some nice ironies to be had with paralleling the two pictures because it brings back many of my themes, the changes of attitude we have to women and therefore equally to men and therefore - equally to society - which has moved a long way in what has been my lifetime.

What are your feelings on the past year and what we can take from it?
The great lesson to learn is that although it seems we’re standing on solid ground, it only needs a tilt for the whole structure to go into the sea really. I think the world was turned upside down in ’39 when we declared war on Germany but the world was already on tilt by then. But the five or six successive years tilted the country and shook it up and the same has happened in the past two years with Covid. It’s just tilted and so everything we thought we knew has suddenly slid away. It may be for the best, you know, you just shake the puzzle box. Eventually people may say, 'I appreciate going out now.’ I’ve noticed the abundance of the countryside programmes on television now. People plodding around the country, saying the it’s great but who never gave a stuff about the country previously!

Do you think the return of theatre will be welcomed? That it might be a positive boost following the events of the past 18 months?
I think it might. I’m hoping it might, that’s the very best that can happen, isn’t it? You still have the constant of the true magic of live performance which everyone has been running around like maniacs trying to find the equivalent via video feeds and Zooms and so on and it’s not possible. I think the message is now - I said right at the beginning of lockdown, when they were saying ‘what about all these streamings?’ and I said, ‘well it’s not the same’ and I think at that point, it wasn’t a terribly fashionable view but I think most people would now agree it’s not the same. You can’t actually find a replacement for a live experience, be it musical or dramatic.
I think that is something to treasure and if by some default, it turns out that those sort of experiences can only be enjoyed on a limited scale, so much the better.

And what of the future?
The wheel waits to be reinvented, I think. The magic of theatre waits to be rediscovered and is alive and well. We’ll keep making up the stories and we’ll get the actors to tell them whatever form it’s in. That’s my optimistic view.

Interview by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do note reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.