Roundelay: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

"I’m working on a new play and I’m fascinated at the moment by certain graphic novels; those in particular where you get bits of the image and it all joins up later. It’s like a jigsaw play really. You eventually get all the pieces and let the audience assemble the picture, but you don’t necessarily give the pieces to them logically and sequentially.
"The structure in the play never assembles - so people may go barmy with that idea, going I can’t follow this! But people read novels which do this, so perhaps it won’t be a problem. With plays, you may have to be a bit more cunning.
"I think there’s only so many ways you can tell stories and maybe I’m slowly exhausting them, but I’m still fascinated by trying to find new ways."
(Interview with Simon Murgatroyd, 4 December 2012)

"The latest due to be presented in autumn next, is called Roundelay. According to the records, it is Number 78. But I’m beginning to lose count these days."
(Guildford Magazine, 1 January 2014 - unpublished response to interview question)

“In Roundelay I have created a confectionary assortment of five related short plays, each with differing flavours and colours and written to be played in no particular order. Each performance will unfold differently in this unique adventure in live theatre.”
(Stephen Joseph Theatre press release, February 2014)

“I always want to make theatre live. I want to say to Joe Public, who sits through so much pre-recorded stuff, ‘look guys, this is a show that’s especially for you’. It’s unique, either by their input or our mistakes. I think the excitement possibly has [gone out of theatre]. We all try desperately to polish it. I think theatre has realised somewhat belatedly that it can no longer provide adequate competition for kids watching videos or computer games. It has to get the liveness back, and that is the only think it trades on. We can’t do scenery as well as the movies, we can’t do music as well, and the recording techniques are way beyond us. But if we have an air of liveness and spontaneity and excitement then I’m sure people will want to come. People are looking for something that hasn’t been decided six months ago in a studio in Hollywood. I’m confident that Roundelay has that freshness, that spontaniety.”
(Stephen Joseph Theatre press conference, 12 February 2014)

“The over-riding theme is memory, what we choose to remember and to forget. False memories. Personal histories we distort. The pasts we invent. Memories that age takes away from us. Long forgotten memories which time restores to us. Memories of the same events, the details of which no two people ever quite share.
“The plays are all related. Some are sequels to others which turn out to be preludes to others. There are (apparently!) 120 possibilities as to the order in which they can be performed. Each performance will unfold differently in this unique adventure in live theatre. Which order will you see? Nobody knows for certain, least of all us!”

(Press release, February 2014)

"[Roundelay consists of plays] that are sort of related or share the same characters. I describe them as a chocolate box with some having soft centres and some very hard. I wanted to see whether changing the order made a difference to them and so, half an hour before the show opens, we'll get a member of the audience to pick some Ping-Pong balls out of a bag which will determine the running order and provoke a lot of loud ripping of Velcro in the dressing rooms."
(The Guardian, 29 March 2014)

"I have always been fascinated with live theatre. Over the years people ask why do you stick with it [theatre]? What can it do that nothing else can do, don't you get the same kicks from movies or television plays or radio plays? All I can answer is that 'it's live' and any given performance happens to be unique on any night. I wanted to emphasise this by building a chance element [into Roundelay]. Depending which one [of the four plays] you start with and which one you finish with, the evening itself will have a totally different feel to it."
(Scarborough Evening News, 10 April 2014)

"It's a bit like
Lottery Live - It's nothing like I've ever done before. We get five coloured ping pong balls in a bag in the bar, and we ask one or two punters to pick the colours out. That's the order you're going to see them [the five Roundelay plays] in tonight. And then we ring downstairs to the green room and tell the stage management and the actors. I'm just interested to know, if that [thing] happens at that point in the evening, what does it do to the rest of the evening? It's another attempt by me to explore different areas, but also to scare myself slightly. It's exciting. I've always wanted to remind people that theatre is alive. The question we kept asking ourselves for the last two or three decades is: 'What can we provide that isn't on telly or film or video?' The answer is a live experience, so my shows have tended to bend over backwards to explain how live they are, and this one's no exception."
(, 12 June 2014)

"The plays are very different styles. One borders on the gothic horror and they go through to pure farce. One or two are quite sad ones. One that’s particularly lump in throat. I just wonder what that mix will do. It’s like opening a big box of chocolates and starting with the caramel and then crunching through to the coffee cream."
(Northern Echo, 26 August 2014)

“This play is an attempt, by me, to emphasise the live-ness of theatre. The individual plays each have a different tone, and so the order effects whether the evening begins with a melancholy vibe or a manic farce.”
(Cumbria Live, 29 October 2014)

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