Communicating Doors: Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes offers a glimpse at some rarely known facts regarding the writing of Alan Ayckbourn's plays with material drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York and the playwright's personal archive.
  • Communicating Doors was not the play Alan Ayckbourn set out to play for February 1994 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough. He intended to write a play called Private Fears In Public Places, the title of which was given in a memo - along with a brief appraise - to the venue for advertising and to allow booking to open. Alan's description appeared in the Winter 1993/94 brochure: "At the airport, Jessica waves a fond farewell to her husband. Then a chance encounter changes her life. How well does she know the man she married? How much can she trust him? How well does she know, how well can she trust herself?" Ironically given what eventually happened, he hand-wrote a note on the memo "By the time I get round to writing it, it'll probably be about eight obstetricians trapped in a lift" (see Archive for the original memo). When Alan later came to write what he described as a "rather gruelling" play, he was alarmed to find that it "began coming to pieces in my hands." He was unable to write his airport-set play and his back-up idea (believed to be a non-musical version of his 1995 play A Word From Our Sponsor) also foundered. With a deadline in place and no play, Alan alerted the theatre and plans were prepared to revive one of his earlier plays. Unexpectedly, Alan had another idea for a time-travelling comedy-thriller. He notified the theatre there would be a new play after all called Communicating Doors and began to write the play over the next week. It would bear no resemblance to the original proposed play except for featuring a character named Jessica (although if the action was transferred to a hotel room, Alan's description of Private Fears In Public Places does resemble the scene in Communicating Doors where Jessica meets Ruella, who attempts to reveal the truth about their husband). As for Private Fears In Public Places, Alan put the title away eventually writing an acclaimed play in 2004 with the title - again totally unrelated to the original idea.
  • The play is littered with references to films and draws its inspiration from films such Psycho, Back To The Future and Carrie.
  • Unusually for the playwright, a detailed synopsis exists for the play just prior to him beginning writing exits in the Ayckbourn Archive. The plot is virtually the same as the finished play except Julian dies in a different way whilst trying to murder Poopay and when Poopay returns to her own time, although the future has been changed for the better, she is still a dominatrix and her own past life has not been altered.
  • Apparently, the hotel in the play was inspired by the Savoy Hotel in London. One hopes that, in reality, its rooms are decorated more often than the forty years without change suggested by the play….
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd 2013. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.