Life Of Riley: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn"It's really rather exciting at this point in the life of a new play.... It's like having a board game tucked under your arm, one that people are keen to play with you. It's also the most nerve-wracking time. But the way I see it, it must mean that I've not done this particular journey before, so I must be breaking new ground. That is what I need to do."
(Elmbridge Lifestyle Magazine, February 2010)
"It's a gentle, but slightly dark, comedy, which explores how people can have such different attitudes to the same person. Individuals always confound your preconceptions."
(The Bath Magazine, February 2010)
"Riley never appears: he's a dying man, and it's about the people left behind. I've always wanted to write a comedy that finishes with a funeral, and gets laughs."
(The Times, 22 March 2010)
"Life Of Riley is about a bloke who’s dying actually. A bloke called Riley who never actually appears, it’s all his friends gathering around trying to sort old George Riley out in his final months. And unseen George sorts them out. Which is about as much as I want to reveal. It is quite funny though.
"I’ve always found that tragic centres are always offset by the surrounding people reacting to it. The comedy comes off the reactions. It’s akin to a play I wrote many, many years ago called Absent Friends where a group of people decided to have a tea party for a bloke whose fiancée has tragically drowned and they’re all bracing themselves to console him. He turns up and he’s ineffably cheerful, which completely throws them because they’ve got their ‘so sorry’ faces on and they’re suddenly having to adjust their attitudes. His jolliness is infuriating to them because this isn’t how people who lose fiancées should behave and their expectations are thwarted. It’s funny. It’s pretty sick, but it’s quite funny!
"There’s always a dark side to humour. I always say that if you write a play with all light, you get snow-blind. You have to have shadows to appreciate lightness."
(In conversation, 11 May 2010)
“A lot of my plays look wistfully at what we might have been doing rather than what we are doing....
“As I write in the programme, I’m fairly well known for my off-stage characters, and here, Riley is in the title but he never appears.
“I wanted to put him at a distance and see what other people were doing in his absence. When people are in a group and you split up, it can have terrible consequences, not only for the couple but also for those around them, who look at their own marriage and think, ‘My god, I thought they were happy; what does that say about our marriage?' In this play, it does cause everyone to look at their own relationships, which is a nice way for George to depart, having sorted out his friends’ lives....
“I thought it was time to have another outdoor play, as you can tell time passing much better there than anywhere else, and in the outdoors my characters seem to talk about themselves much more openly because they don’t feel they’re in a confined space. They’ll talk about themselves in a confessional way, with a couple of cows wandering in the field, which gives the play a more pastoral feel. It has its quiet moments, so it’s more of a pastoral symphony."
(The Press, 17 September 2010)
"It's always hard to know quite when to finish a play - let alone when to start one - but there would have been an awful lot of things left in the air if I'd ended it [before the funeral]. Like never knowing what happened to George - or Tilly, the daughter, or indeed any of them, really.... For all of them comes the realisation their lives have somehow drifted off course to their tearful regret. At George's funeral, finally, they are weeping as much for themselves."
(Personal correspondence, October 2010)
"It's a play about reactions. A lot of writers write about road accidents. I write plays about standing at the side of the road and reacting to the accident.
"It's the story of George as seen through the eyes of many people and as you watch the play, so you can form your own impression of what George is like."
(Radio Cumbria, 10 November 2010)
"I think when you only hear about someone you've never met through others in this way, it gives a really interesting cross-section of what this person is really like. Particularly what we learn of him from the three women, who've had relationships with him of some kind. It allows us to draw our own picture of him."
(North West Evening Mail, 12 November 2010)
"My dramatic intention [in the final scene] was to distance the audience from the characters they had grown to know through the evening, by seeing them, as it were, through the objective eyes of a stranger, Tilly, the daughter whose cool objective teenage gaze, saying through her final cool shrug and wave: So. Stuff happens."
(Personal correspondence, March 2011)
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn