How The Other Half Loves: Quotes by Other People

This page includes quotes about the play How The Other Half Loves by people other than Alan Ayckbourn, predominantly drawn from books and articles about Alan Ayckbourn or British theatre; it does not include quotes from reviews, which can be found in the Reviews pages.

"In the wider world… the heady excitement of the mid-1960s had turned sour as Britain fell into recession and America became bogged down in the Vietnam War; the optimistic radicalism which led to Labour election victories in 1964 and 1966 had given way to a sourer mood and in 1968 anger erupted in mainly student demonstrations in Paris and outside the American Embassy in London; Teresa Phillips's explicit awareness of what is going on beyond the world of the play is rare in Ayckbourn's generally self-obsessed characters."
(Paul Allen: A Pocket Guide to Alan Ayckbourn’s Plays, 2004, Faber)

"It is worth pointing out that the double dinner party scene is much more than 'just' a technical innovation. By showing both parties in the same scene, Ayckbourn has given physical expression to the way William and Mary are tugged this way and that, drawn willingly into the whirlpool of other people's emotions by William's pushy ambition and Mary's readiness to do good. It leads, therefore, directly to what William and Mary do next."
(Paul Allen: A Pocket Guide to Alan Ayckbourn’s Plays, 2004, Faber)

"[Ayckbourn's] most striking and original trick is the superimposition of two actions in How the Other Half Loves and Taking Steps. However audacious the device seemed when he introduced it, its brilliant success is entirely a function of the fact that it is essentially a novel way of doing what farce has always done. The extended quid pro quo and the use of doors to juggle different groups of incompatible characters are tricks of the trade that go back at least as far as Plautus, however much they may make us think of Feydeau, but the essence of both techniques is superimposition. The function of the multi-doored set is to insure that the audience is always conscious of two groups of characters: those presently in view and those just on the other side of the door. To heighten our awareness someone invariably starts to open a door, which would lead to some shocking revelation, then changes her mind at the last moment. When adroitly handled, the technique produces the sensation of several sets of characters occupying the same space at the same time. The quid pro quo involves an even clearer case of superimposition, as two conflicting interpretations of the same event (at least one of which is emotionally or sexually charged) are simultaneously presented."
(Stuart E Baker, Ayckbourn And The Tradition of Farce, 1991)

"The dazzling technique is not there as an end in itself but to service an idea; and one indicated by the punning title which obliquely refers both to one's marital partner and the class system. The play is very much about different styles of loving amongst the employers and the employed."
(Michael Billington: Modern Dramatists - Alan Ayckbourn, 1983, Macmillan)

"In cold prose, it is hard to do justice to the play's overpowering image: the cheek-by-jowl juxtaposition of two families. In the theatre one is constantly obliged to compare and contrast the neat, smart, emotionally evasive Fosters and their well-oiled routine with the scruffy, slobby, emotionally hectic Phillipses and their life of eruptive chaos. Caught between them in a kind of no-man's-land are the unfortunate Featherstones who are variously alibis, guests, victims and aggressors. Obviously the play is written to amuse and entertain and to give the spectator a good night out. But, under and through its technical finesse, it is saying something of general concern: that attitudes to love and sex are tied up with class and environment. At the Foster end of the social scale you protect yourself against any possible hurt with a studied, formal indifference ('If for some reason', says Frank to his wife, 'you were doing something on Wednesday night that you didn't want me to know about, fair enough. No business of mine'). At the Phillips end, you fling the cutlery outside the front door, chase each other round the dining-room table in front of guests but you patch up your differences instantly between the sheets. Ayckbourn, permanently preoccupied with marriage, here extends and develops his treatment of it by showing the different ways of treating adulterous flings: with benign neglect, angry retaliation, do-gooding interference. How you react, he suggests in this thoughtful romp, is likely to depend on such staples of English life as class, income, education and emotional training."
(Michael Billington: Modern Dramatists - Alan Ayckbourn, 1983, Macmillan)

"[How The Other Half Loves features] two rooms intersected on stage so that characters ostensibly in different locations could work beside or around each other while being oblivious to the other's precedes. This illustrates not only Ayckbourn's immensely inventive way with settings (he has never found it essential to have quantities of doors before he can create farce) but also his preoccupation with with the invisible walls people create around themselves."
(Richard Allen Cave: New British Drama In Performance On The London Stage 1970 - 1985, 1987, Colin Smythe)

"The three couples are drawn with a vivid observation that wittily individualises every character and contrasts very different marital relationships."
(Michael Holt: Alan Ayckbourn, 1999, Northcote Press)

"The [acting] space, ingeniously and imaginatively utilised, provides How the Other Half Loves with yet another dimension, one beyond the visual. The audience is not kept in a state of apprehension as in Feydeau's La Puce a I'Oreille (1907) or Travers's Rookery Nook (1926), wondering which character will be revealed next as doors open and close. In fact Ayckbourn has commented on what to others might seem a limitation of arena staging: "I couldn't have written Rookery Nook even if I'd wanted to, because I haven't got any doors." The suspense in How The Other Half Loves transcends plot in involving the audiences appreciation of the characters as actors negotiating the onstage traffic to which they must appear oblivious. Actors portraying characters supposedly miles apart occupy the same space as they circle one another, seemingly on a collision course, then veer to relative safety to the audible sighs of relief from an audience savouring the illusion, willing it to be maintained. This aspect of the play that the dramatist suggests offhandedly in a single-sentence stage direction - 'The characters in their different homes will often pass extremely close but without ever actually touching' - might be overlooked by a reader of the play. But How The Other Half Loves is a joyous experience fraught with vicarious danger for the theater-goer who gasps in the midst of laughter as two actors, blind to one another, come within an inch of making contact. A single brushing of one against the other would burst the illusionary balloon, end the suspense, the fun, the very play. How The Other Half Loves thus depends as much on the ingenuity of its director as on the ingenuity of its author. Perfect timing matters at least as much as plot or language. Added delight comes from the realisation that Ayckbourn's special form of distancing requires that that dimension be supplied finally by the actors themselves. Through his management of space, Ayckbourn has manipulated his audience to identify not merely with his characters, but also with his performers."
(Albert E. Kalson: Laughter In The Dark, 1991, Associated Universities Press)

"Alan loves complication. In How The Other Half Loves it's brilliant the way those two dinner tables come together, and in Absurd Person Singular, he's written the offstage action rather than the onstage action."
(Eric Thompson - director, The Times, 27 July 1974)

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.