Henceforward…: Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

This section includes articles by Alan Ayckbourn on Henceforward…. as well as other authors. All articles are copyright off the respective author and can be accessed through the links in the right-hand column.

This article by Alan Ayckbourn is drawn from correspondence held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York. No further details are known.

Origins Of Life (According To The Author)

Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

Preface to Plays 1
More Inspirations

Articles by Other Authors

Henceforward… & Back
Over the years, I have regularly been asked (along with most writers, I suspect) where do my characters come from? My short answer will vary between "No idea" to "From my head".

The truth is that the latter answer, although rather more precise, is only the tip of the truth, leading to the further question, 'Then how did they get there in the first place?' To which question I generally have no answer at all. A major part of any character I create is largely based on myself, be it young or old, male or female, good or bad; the 'inner me' makes up a good percentage of any character.

Then, because I'm a dramatic writer, there's also the not inconsiderable contribution made by the actor playing it (the 'inner them'). Every dramatic character who appears onstage is effectively a blend of dramatist and performer, at best a blessed offspring of a happy union; at worst a cursed child from a marriage made in hell. Though, in this author's case who generally acts as an intermediary midwife, the birth is generally reasonably painless.

But there is, added to this genetic mix, a further source from which the characters are usually drawn, aside from the author and performer, namely the nearest and dearest of the two procreators. The actor will occasionally confide in me that they have based this particular character on their eccentric Aunt Maude or their weird Uncle Barry. As author, my source material is generally more oblique, less immediately attributable, 'borrowed', as I like to put it, from friends and family. After all, which of us ever recognises a portrait of ourselves? Answer: quite a number of us, actually.

I once included a character based on a local councillor which was so unflattering, so ridiculous (though only very slightly exaggerated) that it veered perilously close to myself as the first public performance drew closer, he'll surely never recognise himself, will he? And indeed after the show, he apparently hadn't. I'd got away with it. The same councillor subsequently returned to see the show several times and after the final performance he came up to congratulate me on what he told me was one of his favourite plays of mine thus far. He enquired whether the show would have a future life after Scarborough possibly in the West End. On learning that it would have, he declared, "Oh, good! I'm so pleased!" Then he added, "Have they got anyone to play me yet?'

Henceforward... denotes the point in my writing life when the guilt finally got to me. After years of first nights, facing the reproachful stares of close family continually recognising themselves, wives, mothers, children (God, I even stole bits of my children! What kind of monster steals from his own kids?), my wife said to me (not the current one!): "I actually believed that was a private moment between us. How could you - in front of all these people?' To which I airily answered, "Well, no one knows that was us, surely? A hurt silence, then she whispered,"I did!"
The character of Jerome, although loosely based on feelings of guilt I had at the time, is of course nothing at all like me. After all, Jerome steals bits of people and really doesn't even care at all, no scrap of remorse, completely shameless. I was never as bad as that!

Although, come to think of it, thirty years later I'm not so sure. I'm still stealing blatantly from my (diminishing) circle of friends. But to hell with it, they shouldn't be so sensitive, should they?

Anyway, I don't care. Publish and be damned! Want to be my friend, do you?

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