How The Other Half Loves: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's How The Other Half Loves. If you have a question about this or any other of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, you can contact the website via the Contact Us page.

How The Other Half Loves is often described as a farce, but Alan Ayckbourn says he has written only one farce - Taking Steps. Is How The Other Half Loves a farce?
It depends! Depending on how you define farce, How The Other Half Loves can be described as a farce rather than, say, a comedy. In the strictest definition of the term farce, it doesn't fulfil the generally accepted criteria - hence why Alan Ayckbourn considers Taking Steps to be his only true farce. However, farce as a genre is generally wider than it once was and there are enough farcical elements within the play that it could be called a farce and Alan Ayckbourn agrees that it does border on farce. Essentially, most observers would accept that How The Other Half Loves is a farce, but it could equally be described as a comedy without issue.

I'm interested in staging How The Other Half Loves in North America and have the Americanised version of the script. Should I use this or the original version?
Until the early 2000s, the only text of How The Other Half Loves available in North America was the Samuel French edition of the original Broadway production, which was heavily 'Americanised' by Alan Ayckbourn and the director Gene Saks. The publishers Samuel French has now replaced this edition with the original British text of the play. Strictly speaking, the British version of the play should be used. The 'Americanised' version was always a compromise and did the play no favours. Given American audiences appear to have had no problem whatsoever with all the many other Ayckbourn plays, the preference has to be for the original unaltered text.

I saw the original West End production in 1970 starring Robert Morley and recall it was substantially different, is it possible to read that version of the play?
No. The West End production of the play was substantively altered by the actor Robert Morley, who played Frank Foster. He was given to improvising and altering the script to suit his purposes and what he believed the audience expected from him. As a result, the play as performed often bore little resemblance to the play as written by Alan Ayckbourn - and none of the changes were done with Alan's approval. Whilst the playwright accepts the production was very successful, he does not feel it reflected his play as written and was merely Robert Morley's version of the play. Other than several additions which Alan did incorporate into the play, no other record of Morley's changes and alterations survive.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.