Talking at the Edge: Alan Ayckbourn’s Just Between Ourselves
As unlikely as it may seem today given his current standing in the world of the theatre, Alan Ayckbourn’s work did not meet with instant critical acclaim. While his professional debut as a playwright was made in 1959 not long after the advent of the ‘angry young men’ in 1956, he chose to write comedies that dealt with the private concerns of the middle class (Tucker 2003: 71; Holt 1999: 11; Distler 1991; Ruskino 1991: 41; Page 1983: 44) set, as Taylor (1981: 183) remarked, ‘wherever in the scampi-belt the garden gnomes grow thickest’. He was not overtly political in his drama (Fisher 1996: 23; Page 1983: 44), nor was he especially interested (at least early in his career) in challenging the nature or existence of reality (Taylor 1981: 182-3; Fisher 1996: 24). To top it all off, he also achieved commercial success. As Holt (1999: 11) has put it, he focused on the ‘wrong’ class, wrote in the ‘wrong’ genre, and presented a ‘wrong basic attitude’. Identified as an inheritor of Rattigan (Tucker 2003: 71; Holt 1999: 1-2; Taylor 1981: 183), he was initially dismissed as a writer of lightweight comedies that were suited to the tastes of holiday audiences in Scarborough (Holt 1999: 1; Distler 1991; Rusinko 1991: 41).