Communicating Doors: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn"Basically, I had two ideas bouncing around my head. So the final piece could have emerged from either one of them. And the play I absolutely thought I would write is a rather gruelling piece set in an airport departure lounge - so that is the one which went in to the brochure. When I actually started to write the advertised play, Private Fears In Public Places, it all rather alarmingly began coming to pieces in my hands. It wasn't ready to be written. Certain parts were intact, but it was like crafting a piece of furniture without legs. So I turned to my second idea - which to my absolute horror suddenly began to look like another non-starter as well. So it was just as I had resigned myself to thinking 'oh well, looks like a revival of Bedroom Farce for me' this third idea bounded in from nowhere to fill up the vacuum. When I set out to complete a new play, I begin to test the things that might be right for me as a writer. In this case, I felt that meant a nudge back towards the lighter end of things. I've been trawling the depths for quite a while now, and Private Fears In Public Places was shaping up to be pretty bleak before it fell apart. But the best thing about the new play, which is called Communicating Doors, is that I was able to divert my writing into an area I've never previously explored.
"When I set out to write a new play, I begin to test the water for whatever might be right for me at that particular time. In this case, I sensed I could do with a nudge towards the lighter end of things. I've been trawling the depths for quite a while now, and Private Fears In Public Places was shaping-up to be pretty bleak, before it fell apart. But the best thing about Communicating Doors is that I was able to divert my writing into a theatrical area which I've always enjoyed but never previously explored."
"Even though playwriting involves the use of language, I always like to think of it in terms of colour. And there have been two important new shades to my palette of late. The first of these is my rediscovery of children's theatre, which has itself fed back into my adult writing. Its presence is felt in a new freedom, a liberated sense of playfulness, and the realisation that whoever you are writing for, one can always introduce a touch of fantasy.
"The second important new colour is music. Communicating Doors is in no sense a musical. But it was my chance to try something I have always loved in the theatre, which was the ability, just occasionally, to make people jump. It's not dissimilar to something Hitchcock might have put on the stage - so one of the really important ingredients is the evocative, musical soundtrack. This is something John Pattison and I have been interested in for a long time - that sense of subliminal under-scoring. The strange thing is that you add music to children's plays without even thinking about it. You enter a magic forest and you expect to hear an eerie synthesiser go 'wee wooh wah'. But if it's an adult piece and it's 33 Chatsworth Place we're going in to, 'wee wooh wah' isn't terribly appropriate."
(Yorkshire Post, 1 February 1994)
"A cross between Back To The Future and Psycho."
(Inside Out, 21 February 1994)
"A time-travel play with bits of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock in it."
(Chicago Tribune, 30 March 1994)
"It's slightly lighter than my two previous plays, Time Of My Life and Wildest Dreams. It has events in it that are designed to make the audience jump."
(Stagebill, April 1994)
"I suppose it's [the inspiration] from spending too long in hotel rooms on tour. I gazed at those mysterious doors which always lead to other rooms and which are always locked. There's that strange what I call 'TARDIS' feel, as if you could go through to a different time zone. I've always loved sci-fi since I was a kid and then there's the idea of being able to revisit things one did wrong to get them right second time. We all have things we're terribly ashamed of. If you could actually go back and take back the word or the action it would be terrific....
"On the most airy, fairy level it's the battle for a girl's soul - on the lowest it's a comedy thriller. It does interest me - they're difficult to do because you either make the thriller too silly or the comedy too serious."
(Paint It Red, July 1995)
"There are powers for good. You meet incredibly good people who have something in them beneficial to others. Then there are their counterparts, extraordinarily negative, sometimes inexplicable except in terms of harmful intent. I'm interested not in evil itself but in what run-of-the-mill English couples would make of it if they ran into lt. It happens down the road In Bosnia; how would you cope here? I was shocked to hear they had blown up a golf course. I thought, oh no, it's not a jungle or a parched desert. They're like people from Guildford....
"Time-travel ... You have to be careful; theatregoers go faint at time-travel, space and organised sport. Julia [McKenzie] says if Hitchcock had written a farce this would be it....
"Tiny idea [inspired the play] - banal really. Wouldn't it be nice if we could go back and alter things? Hence the time-travelling and all those rules - you mustn't tread on a butterfly or it will change the nature of government today...".
(Financial Times, 4 August 1995)
"It's hard to nail it down because it's not farce, it's not comedy, it's not drama. It's actually a comedy-thriller. And then it's also a romance - it's a play about time-travel."
(Daily Telegraph, 12 August 1995)
"A play bubbles away in my head for several months and I don't usually write anything down. It just takes root and grows. When I think it's ready I clear all my other commitments for about three or four weeks and sit down at the word processor.... I'd been staying at a hotel and staring at one of those communicating doors and wondering what might lie on the other side."
(John Lewis Partnership, 3 March 1996)
"Communicating Doors, for example, it's a blend of quite a lot of things. On one hand, it's a very dark thriller, a Hitchcockian piece. And on the other hand, it's also a comedy. When one character falls off the balcony, it definitely becomes a farce. For a moment, it even becomes a bit surreal."
(Time Out New York, 6 August 1998
"[On what inspired Communicating Doors] The theme. What it would be like to live your life over again. How chance meetings with strangers can alter our lives (God knows what would have happened to me if I hadn't met Stephen Joseph, for instance). I'm a great believer in the fact that, if we're lucky, most of us are presented with sudden opportunities in life. Sometimes quite brief and fleeting windows of chance. That's the lucky bit. Some of us get more than others and that's also the luck of the draw. Being in the right place at the right time. The skilful bit is to grab hold of these opportunities and not to miss or ignore them or let them slip through your fingers. This sometimes takes courage, even a certain degree of what-the-hell recklessness....
"It's a romance, a comedy, a thriller, a sci-fi adventure story, and a morality play. A story of an unlikely friendship between two totally opposite women. During the play, despite an initial mistrust, they both learn a lot from each other....
"All those elements have featured separately at various stages in my earlier work but here they're dramatically brought together. It is, after all, one of the more 'filmic' of all my plays. The references are numerous. Psycho and any number of Hitchcock movies for a start."
(Interview with Alan Ayckbourn, 2004)
"This is a sort of romance. It’s a play about ‘what if?’
"It is a time-travel play but this is concealed in a moral tale. It’s about a girl who goes wrong initially in her life and is put right. It initiates a recurring theme in my plays; it’s not what you do, but the people you meet who put you right - providing you choose the right people to listen to. We are modified and improved by the people we meet.
"When I wrote it in 1994, the future scenes of this play were 2014, which is now just round the corner. I imagined London would be in a state of civil war, so I’ve moved it forward, so the future is now 2030.
"When it was first done, a friend said "Oh My God, you’ve written a play with a happy ending!" It's my first truly happy ending, but a lot of people die in making a happy ending though!
"This is inspired by the movies and the references are too boring to go into except we may have fun in the rehearsals spotting them all! And there’s no prizes for spotting Psycho.
"It’s a stage version of a film noir. If we could it would be in black and white we would! But we’re spoiling those who want to watch it in colour and 3D!
"It’s an adventure story and quite exciting. If you smell burning, it’s the audiences brains as they try to work out what the hell is going on!"
"It is the happiest of endings, for me. Actually, I was quite surprised at the way the play ends. Time travel offers the chance to go back and correct some mistakes, or at the very least, to avoid them in the first place. And the play contains various things - it is partly comedy, partly film noir. The creepy figure emerging from the bathroom, like Psycho. And that moment in the second act is straight out of Carrie."
(5 July 2010, introduction to the first read-through of Communicating Doors for the Stephen Joseph Theatre revival)
"I wanted to write about how, in many cases, our futures, our destinies, rest in our own hands. It isn't always about upbringing or genetics; it can be, but sometimes that's the easy get-out."
(Bristol Evening Post, 26 May 2011)
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn