The Norman Conquests: Interviews with Alan Ayckbourn

This section contains various interviews with Alan Ayckbourn regarding The Norman Conquests. Click on a link in the right-hand column below to access the interviews.

This interview is held in the Ayckbourn Archive, although no details of either when or with whom has been recorded.

Correspondence with Alan Ayckbourn

Bearing in mind that these plays are comedy works, when you wrote this trilogy, were you aiming for comedy that came from a realistic view of society, or a The Good Life-esque parody of people that we recognise, but exaggerated versions of them?
I was looking to write a comedy that sprang from genuine observation of the recognisable. Not being a natural “gag” writer, I always rely on character and situation to create laughter. For that to operate properly, we need first to believe in the people we’re watching. Incidentally, just for the record,
The Good Life actually followed on from my plays and used many of the principle actors that were currently appearing in my West End shows - as well as borrowing one or two key moments, as well!

Do you think The Norman Conquests is a cynical view of the so-called “family values” that English people stick to?
I think it’s a fairly accurate view. We are creatures of clubs and customs; rituals and routines. If they didn’t exist we’d soon invent them. Probably tribal.

Is Norman a projection of the thoughts and dreams most married men would perhaps admit to having, but would never actually realise? What I’m basically driving at is, does Norman’s actual hedonistic pursuit of these women make him a realistic character?
I once described the men in
The Norman Conquests thus. Norman is who I’d like to be, Tom is how people sometimes perceived me and Reg was what I feared I’d eventually become. I think Norman is not uncommon. I once asked a friend of mine what the secret was of his success with women. Simple, he said, I ask them.

Your work uses the technique of allowing two people to converse alone on various occasions. I just wondered if there is a specific purpose to your repeated use of this technique - perhaps to add to the comic value?
No, The Norman Conquests does break down into a number of duologues but this is just the nature of the plays themselves rather than any deliberate comic device. It just so happened that there were a number of occasions when someone had something to say to one character that couldn’t be overheard by the others. In truth, I don’t think much about comedy at all when I’m writing. I just write, leaving my characters to converse, facilitating that by organising convenient occasions for them to meet.

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