Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ask The Archivist: Confused About Confusions

Ask The Archivist is an occasional feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: I'm confused about Alan Ayckbourn's play Confusions! I've read conflicting reports that all / some / none of the plays are linked. What is the answer?

Answer: The definitive answer - as provided by the playwright - is all the plays are loosely linked. If the play is staged as the author intended - i.e. as in the world premiere at Scarborough and not the London premiere - each play has a loose link to the next. So...

> In Mother Figure, it is mentioned Lucy's husband Harry has been trying to telephone her...
> Harry features in Drinking Companion, having just tried calling his wife. He is served by the hotel's waiter...
> Who is the same waiter who features in Between Mouthfuls, serving dinner to guests including Mr and Mrs Pearce...
> Mrs Pearce - or Councillor Mrs Pearce - also appears in Gosforth's Fete having been sent by the Mayor to open the fete. It is also mentioned Gosforth is a divorced landlord...
> Divorced from Doreen, who appears in A Talk In The Park, mentioning her former husband who is a landlord.

So there is the playwright's definitive answer. Each of the plays has a loose narrative link to the next.

In which case, you might wonder why there is confusion about whether the plays are linked. This essentially boils down to two reasons. The London premiere and the inaccurate assumption that London productions are definitive.
This particularly applies to the well-received London premiere of Confusions which was produced as a star vehicle for John Alderton and Pauline Collins. Rather than casting the play as the playwright intended as an ensemble piece intended to give each actor their moment to shine, John Alderton took the 'lead' part in Drinking Companion, Between Mouthfuls and Gosforth's Fete, unbalancing the play. The main result was that the waiter in Drinking Companion - who has a minor role - then comes to prominence in Between Mouthfuls. As Alderton played Harry in Drinking Companion and the Waiter in Between Mouthfuls, that link was lost. Several publications subsequently made the inappropriate assumption that the London production - which was not even directed by Alan Ayckbourn - reflected the author's intentions and incorrectly noted there only some of the plays were linked.
When studying Alan's plays, it should always be remembered that the definitive production should essentially always be the world premiere, staged in-the-round, featuring an ensemble cast and from the 7th play onwards, directed by Alan Ayckbourn.

Hopefully, that clears up the confusion about Confusions.

Confusions, directed by Alan Ayckbourn, can be seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, this summer between 9 July and 26 September. Further details can be found at

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: labelled Ask The Archivist.