Communicating Doors: Advice on Staging the Play by Alan Ayckbourn

In the Ayckbourn Archive, correspondence with Alan Ayckbourn offers some advice from the playwright as to how to approach the play as a director.

The play, especially in its dying moments, should be quite poignant. Quite a few of our audience shed a surreptitious tear for Ruella. But they won’t do that if they don’t care. And they won’t care if they don’t believe or are really moved by the change in Poopay’s circumstances.
It is also that tricky thing, a comedy thriller.
It should also be very frightening. We have to believe that our heroines are in real danger. Julian is the key to this, of course. But so is their own fear. Always remind your cast that the audience don’t know what’s going to happen next even if the actors do. Watch a horror movie twice and it’s never as frightening because we know that in this particular sequence the heroine doesn’t get grabbed… But that doesn’t stop her telling us that she thinks she might.
It’s all about truth really. Even the best actors sometimes stand there wondering what’s gone wrong. The answer invariably is that the audience no longer believe.
Concentrate on the thriller element and work hard to develop a real and growing friendship between Ruella and Poopay. They are two very different, flawed women who are thrown together through circumstances and gradually discover a growing affection and admiration for each other. Yes, of course it is easy to see what Poopay gets from Ruella. Self respect, a sense of responsibility for others, etc. But Ruella also begins to learn a little tolerance and maybe even a sense of humour about things.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.