How The Other Half Loves: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn"Light comedy must be recognisable to people in the street. The difficulty is to make it fun and relevant."
(The Guardian, 7 August 1970)
"I'm interested in theatrical time in the Priestley sense. But you can become more complicated and more damned ingenious until no-one understands the plot at all."
(The Guardian, 7 August 1970)
"I like to deal in the basics - marriage, it's so tragic and comic, you know - the things people can do to each other. Or the way the rich and the poor do things. I mean people are terribly occupied with their own personal, everyday problems. There's a war on and, of course, we're sorry and it's too bad, but what can we do about it really?"
(Boston Sunday Advertiser, 7 March 1971)
Regarding the Americanisation of the play for Broadway: "We wanted to make this production as American as possible, we've incorporated a lot of American lingo too.... Gene Saks [the director] and I holed up for a week at the Savoy in London and worked the play over to adapt it to American audiences. It was a matter of fine tuning, actually. For the characters are international, I think. We changed the names of towns, inverted dialogue... that sort of thing. Americans seem to put their verbs in different order, don't you think? In swapping lines, I was getting more and more Americanised and Gene was getting more and more British. One of the biggest dangers playwrights undergo crossing the Atlantic is assuming we have a similar language. In a way we don't. That's why we've written this show almost as a translation."
(Boston Sunday Globe, 7 March 1971)
"My secretary had just got married and wanted a flat, and I said 'There's one going two doors down'. So she got that one. Of course the flats were identically designed and unless you were some weird eccentric you had to put your furniture in a certain way - your television there because of the plug in the wall there, and the dining hatch was there. Often I'd go for a drink with her and her husband and one would say 'I wonder which flat we're in'. And I started to think that if you actually ripped the lid off those boxes and looked in, you'd see people treading these identical little patterns, wearing out the same bit of carpet. I was also thinking 'I don't think I can write a full-length play this year. I'm a bit exhausted'. So I thought 'I'll try writing two at once. Let's be clever'. So I got this family going this way, and this the other, and eventually they tied up. I've always wanted to play around."
(The Times, 4 July 1973)
"It was a couple of years later that I was to meet the first of my mega-stars, Robert Morley, when I wrote How The Other Half Loves. I didn't write it for him, I actually wrote it for my company. The thing I was learning was how to write for groups of actors. I've never been against the star system. What I've hated is the idea of a vehicle for a star, and I've always tried to write equal parts, equal shares for actors. I hope I've never written a part that I wouldn't have played myself. To that extent I was writing team plays. But I came to a head-on collision for the first time with Robert Morley. He was due to play one sixth of a play of mine which increasingly became one third, one half and then three quarters. Now, if you employ Robert Morley there is no point trying to pretend he isn't there. He is very very big, and big too with his audiences. People who pay to see plays by unknown writers in fact pay to see people like Robert Morley. So, in the end one let him out of his cage and he rampaged about the play, and it was the longest run I've ever had.* He said, very sweetly, to me at the end - he knew I was wincing a lot as yet another scene vanished - '…I've left a trail of sadder but richer writers behind me'. I was forced to agree with him."
(Drama, Volume 1, 1988)
"It all seems rather manic, and I thought the dialogue desperately heavy. I hope I've got a bit cleverer than that; it's not that I've abandoned humour, but I think perhaps there are more serious things to write about than dinner parties going adrift."
(Sunday Telegraph, 20 November 1988)
"I was particularly fascinated by the uses of distortion of time and space; especially the comic potentialities. I was also keen to write a play with highlighted different and contrasting social lifestyles. But mainly it seemed like a great deal of fun...."
(Personal correspondence, 1989)
"For my second successful play, How the Other Half Loves, I was trying to solve how to tell a story about two couples and to cross cut between them in the round. I was bored by the usual solution, which was to divide the stage down the middle, because in the round, if you're sitting here, and the stage is divided there, then that flat is a long way from you and will be throughout the evening; while this flat, being in the foreground, will always be more important than the other, although the action you might want them to think is important is actually in the other. So how do you mix it? Then I thought: put them one on top of the other! Suddenly, a whole realm of comic possibilities opened up. There was Mr A sitting on the same sofa as Mr B, and suddenly all that happened; then I had a thought, we'll observe them on the same night. So out of necessity, came a comic motor."
(Plays International, July 2000)
"When you do it [How The Other Half Loves] in a proscenium (theatre), everyone's trying to make sure that the wallpaper alternates, so the thing looks like a complete cat's cradle with doors everywhere. The thing about the round is that you have no wallpaper and minimal furniture, and just the pattern on the floor. The props are never really denoted as being particularly one or the other family's, so you let the story unwind in a much freer way. It's the first play in which I played with time and space".
(Leeds Guide, June 2009)
"We've left it where it is [for Alan Ayckbourn's 2009 revival], in the 1960s. It's a child of its time really. Obviously the whole social scene has shifted somewhat. Men and women's attitudes have changed quite a lot. It's interesting that in that period when I was writing, none of the women worked. They were all so-called housewives. Now you would probably have a job to write a play about a woman without at least having a job. It's very interesting to see the social shift. Audiences today sit and say, 'Gosh, I would never take that'.
"It's a very old one in my canon. It's like a very old friend and was my second big hit after Relatively Speaking. With being my second play, it really sort of established me. Everyone always says, if you're doing your first play and it's a success, 'Oh well, he's maybe a one-play wonder', but once you've got a second one in, they say, 'Oh he's got some legs'."
(The Sentinel, 4 September 2009)
"How the Other Half Loves, again in one sense a fairly well‑plotted play, but using unusual theatre techniques in superimposing two rooms on top of each other, a pure in-the-round conceit."
(The Guardian, 29 March 2014)
*How The Other Half Loves actually has the second longest continuous commercial West End run of an Ayckbourn play behind Absurd Person Singular.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn