Truth Will Out: Interview with Alan Ayckbourn

This is an extract from an interview with Alan Ayckbourn by his Archivist Simon Murgatroyd published in the March 2020 edition of the SJT Circle. It was printed just prior to the announcement that the play would not be produced during the planned 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Things To Come (extract)

Alan's revival of his classic work, Just Between Ourselves will then be joined by Alan’s new play, the intriguingly titled Truth Will Out. This is a play which begins in the most traditional of Ayckbourn locales before taking some very unexpected turns. *

Truth Will Out starts very familiarly in the sitting room of a very average home and it explodes outwards from there. I wanted to start with the tiniest of ripples with a schoolboy in his bedroom tinkering with his laptop. My lad, Donnie, sets it all off inadvertently. He’s interested in a girl and hacks into her online diary. But what might have been a harmless act turns into a house of cards!”

Central to the play is the idea that in an inter-connected world, that inter-connectedness is not necessarily without its dangers.

“We are in a world where everything is, in a good way, connected but also, in a bad way, also all connected. Just as the tree has all its many branches, it only takes one person to shake it and the whole damned apple crop drops to the ground.”

Like the vast majority of his writing, Alan remains determined to not be complacent and move into new territory, something he feels
Truth Will Out succeeds in achieving.

“I think it is, for me, quite a new departure. I hope so. The whole point of carrying on writing is to try new things. I think it was for me, personally, quite a surprise when I wrote it!”

Although not specifically influenced by recent political events, Alan does feel the recent mood of the country has fed into his writing.

“Whilst It does have elements of my other plays, there is also a sort of anger in it. I think that’s come from my dislike of people taking extreme positions on anything. As one of my characters says, you can hardly step outside the door without stepping on someone’s toes. People are getting more and more polarised and angry. The middle ground is fast being eroded by the extremists who are rapidly building barricades.”

Another inspiration - particularly with regard to how the internet and social media can have unexpected effects - is a surprisingly old tale told about the author Mark Twain playing mischief with the relatively new-fangled telegram, which Alan heard in his childhood and feeds into the play.

“One of the inspirations is the old, old saying from way back in my youth, that if you sent everyone a telegram saying, ‘All is discovered, leave the country immediately.’ There’d be very few people left in the country!”

Above all though, Alan hopes the play will surprise audiences both in its narrative and in confounding expectations of what you would expect from one of his plays.

“I hope it has a strong enough narrative thread running through it that people will want to know what the hell happens, but it is a journey where you may say, half-way through, ‘where the hell are we going?’ Because it’s not obvious where it’s heading to. There is no indication whether it will resolve or end in armageddon!”

And if all that sounds intriguing for you, then you’re in the same place as the playwright himself!

“This is a new world for me and I’m very much looking forward to doing it.”

* Truth Will Out and Just Between Ourselves were announced as part of the Stephen Joseph Theatre's summer 2020 schedule, but were both cancelled when the Covid-19 pandemic led to a nationwide lockdown on 23 March 2021, which closed all the UK's theatres.

Interview by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.