Life Of Riley: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Life Of Riley. If you have a question about this or any other of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, you can contact the website via the Contact Us page.

Can the character of Tilly be omitted from productions of the play given she only appears briefly in the final scene?
No. Alan Ayckbourn feels very strongly about this and has often noted that "all my characters are there for a purpose." Tilly's presence at the funeral is to throw the other characters and their selfishness into relief; hers is the only genuine reaction to George's death. The playwright feels very strongly that 16 year old Tilly is vital for the scene as she was the last one to see George alive and her genuine reaction to his death stands in stark contrast to the other characters who are too self-involved to appreciate what George has done for them.
The playwright has also stated that if a company does not want to put Tilly into the play, the company should not be staging the play and the play licenser, Samuel French Ltd, is aware of this.

Is Life Of Riley set in Yorkshire as Alain Resnais's film implies?
It is not made clear in the script where the play is set, but it is not necessarily Yorkshire and more probably in the region of his fictional town of Pendon; located vaguely in the vicinity of Reading. Alain Resnais moved two of Alan's plays into Yorkshire - Intimate Exchanges and Life Of Riley - for his films, purely as an artistic choice and because this is where he most associated Alan Ayckbourn with.

Who is the character of George Riley based on?
It has been speculated that George Riley is based on someone specific and, indeed, someone previously associated with the Stephen Joseph Theatre has even claimed to be the direct inspiration for the character. However, this is not the case and the playwright has repeatedly stated on the record that the character of George Riley is not inspired or influenced by anyone he specifically knew and certainly not anyone who claimed to be the inspiration!
The playwright has admitted that the look of the character - within his mind - was based on a frequent visitor to the Stephen Joseph Theatre from the town of Whitby; but given the character never appears within the play, that image of Riley is purely the author's own and will differ to that imagined by the audience.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.