House & Garden: Interviews

This section contains interviews with Alan Ayckbourn relating to his plays House & Garden. Click on the link in the right-hand column below to go to the relevant interview.

This interview was conducted by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, and published in the Scarborough Evening News prior to the world premiere of House & Garden at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, during 1999.

House & Garden

Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

Interview Extracts
Simon Murgatroyd: Rumour has it you’re planning to write something rather unique for your 60th birthday.
Alan Ayckbourn:
It's a one-off, entirely written for this building. It's a complete piece of lunacy on my part and is unlikely to ever have another life. I can't pull the theatre apart again! I think it's going to be a theatrical event not to be missed and I'm sure nobody's done this before. Nobody is stupid enough!

We’re dealing with two plays here,
House & Garden, what makes them different?
House & Garden is really one play, but it's two plays. They're both set, obviously, in different auditoria and they're designed to play simultaneously. They explore different aspects of the same characters. There's an incredible element of risk in it, which is always exciting. It's also pretty comical, it's not one of my Haunting Julia's as befits a birthday show. One part of the fun will be to spot references to my other plays.

I understand the event will not just take over the two auditorium.
The garden fête will be going outside the theatre, so if you don't have a good evening at the show, at least you'll come away with a good jar of jam! The [Stephen Joseph] Friends will be manning stalls and you'll be able stroll down and have a home made cake or play on the tombola.

It has to be asked, but do you need to see both the plays and do they need to be seen in any particular order?
The important thing is they are separate plays, it would be a shame if you didn't see both - you may wonder what happened on the other side for the rest of your life! You can see them in different orders. There is no right order. It just alters your perceptions of events.

During 2001, Simon Murgatroyd touched upon House & Garden in a follow-up interview with the playwright.

A year on from House & Garden's success in both Scarborough and the National Theatre, what are your thoughts on the plays?
House & Garden was a big risk. Everyone wishes we’d run it longer now, but it was always a big risk. Technically I thought I could pull it off, but I didn't know whether it would just become a clever technical exercise, what a pity it wasn't a good play to watch.
I think it did well and what made me excited was the whole event side of it, the way the audience mixed and mingled and came back. The
House audience met the Garden audience and there was the fete and it made for a great time.

Would you say that aspect of the production as the biggest surprise to you?
I suspect it isn’t done much, two plays running concurrently. I think that obviously was uppermost in the audience’s mind: 'We’re seeing something very unique and we can say we’ve been here.' Which is nice.
Afterwards, the hardest thing was coming back to normal work, which was very difficult. We weren’t looking at the stopwatches, hurrying people around.

Interview by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.