Communicating Doors: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy Communicating Doors.

I'm directing the play, given the play was written in 1994 and the contemporary scenes are set in that year, can we alter the dates from the original 1974 / 1994 / 2014 to the present day (i.e. 1995 / 2015 / 2035)?
This is acceptable from the playwright's point of view and the contemporary scenes (i.e. the scenes in the play set in 1994) can be moved forward to the present day with the 'future' and 'past' set scenes 20 years ahead or behind that date. For example, if the contemporary scenes are moved to 2015, then the future scenes would be altered to 2035 and the past scenes 1995.

Does altering the dates affect the text?
Obviously, every reference to the year would have to be altered to avoid discrepancies. There is also the more difficult issue of the changing face of technology. Moving the play from 1994 to the present day means many of the references are anachronous - and some of the future advancements mentioned not also seem somewhat dated. However, any alterations to the main body of the text - except regarding the dates - would need to be approved by Samuel French or the playwright as specified in the standard performance license for altering the play text.

Could the play be performed as a period piece - as most of Ayckbourn's plays have to be - with the original dates of 1974 / 1994 / 2014.
This is possibly the easiest solution tom producing the play as the 1994 and 1974 scenes are historical and can be recreated with few problems. However, we've now passed 2014 and there isn't civil war on the streets of London nor has the country turned (overtly!) dystopian. However, even this issue can be avoided by a simple programme note mentioning how this was Alan Ayckbourn's perspective of a possible future when he wrote the play in 1994 and he is delighted that it hasn't come to pass. Although who knows what the next 20 years will bring….

Isn't the play ultimately paradoxical?
You're thinking about this far too much! The play works and makes sense during performance, were you to then think too much about it afterwards, certain problems arise from the presumed mechanics of time travel. But that could be said of the vast majority of films / plays / television involving time travel. As Alan himself notes, it is not a play about time travel or the mechanics of time travel. It is a play about being given the opportunity to change our lives, could we and would we? The time travel is just a plot device, deliberately unexplained and not dwelled upon. It is paradoxical but you could, alternatively, say that given no-one knows how time travel truly works, who knows whether it's paradoxical or not? Or if that doesn't work, that the doors not only go back in time but also into alternate, parallel universes. Ultimately though, it's probably best just to go with it and enjoy the experience without thinking too hard about it all!

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without crediting the author and the website.