Things We Do For Love

On 29 April 1997, Alan Ayckbourn’s acclaimed play Things We Do For Love opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

It was his first new ‘adult’ work at the venue following its opening in April 1996 and was perceived as a return to form for the playwright and became the first – and only – play at the SJT to run for more than 100 performances.

It subsequently has a successful transfer to the West End and is regarded as one of his classic works from the ’90s. To mark its premiere in 1997, the blog has a short article Alan Ayckbourn wrote about the play.

Things We For Love by Alan Ayckbourn

A year after we’d moved into the Stephen Joseph Theatre, in 1997, I wrote my first play especially for smaller end-stage auditorium ‘The McCarthy’ to underline my belief in its equal importance.

Things We Do For Love world premiere poster (© Scarborough Theatre Trust)

Departing from my usual in-the-round venue, this became Things We Do for Love. It owed, like The Revengers’ Comedies (1989), some of its origins in cinema.

I had seen a few years previously, a Clint Eastwood movie, In the Line of Fire, in which he plays a federal agent and includes a sequence in which he and his female partner amorously start to undress each other whilst attempting at the same time to make it as far as the bedroom, frenziedly scattering clothing, weaponry, walkie-talkies, bullet-proof vests and regulation FBI gear as they do so. This is wittily all shot from floor level so that all that can be seen are their feet as they pick their way through the piles of discarded equipment. It is essentially a cinematic visual joke but one I wanted to recreate on stage.

Taking advantage of the end stage format, the play, like a traditional doll’s house is set on three levels. The whole is Barbara’s bijou maisonette; the ground floor which she inhabits, we see all of; upstairs is a flat which she rents to her friend Nikki and Hamish, her fiancé and, when anyone’s up there, we see only their feet; finally in the basement, only the top part of which is visible, is another flat rented to Gilbert. I overcame the problem of never seeing Gilbert by having him lie on a makeshift trestle platform for sections of the play as he paints his basement ceiling.

It’s a play I’m especially fond of, marking the return to my earlier domestic scale, following the recent larger scale plays I had been producing, notably A Small Family Business (1987), Man of The Moment (1988) and The Revengers’ Comedies (1989).

[The protagonist] Barbara is a virgin of some forty plus years who, apart from a secret yearning for her offstage married boss, has firmly resisted romantic entanglement with a man in any shape or form. But love eventually, unexpectedly without warning, catches up with her denial. Her long wait makes for a heavy fall. Barbara crashes and she does so, to her horror, passionately and with increasing violence, beginning to behave in ways she previously deplored in others, finally losing all dignity, self respect and ruthlessly betraying friends.

She is finally reduced, as she sees it, to the level of an animal. Love, says the poet, can raise you to the stars; it can also bring you to your knees. It has one of my bitter sweet endings, where everyone is wiser about themselves if a shade sadder for knowing it.

You can find out more about Things We Do For Love at Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website by clicking here.

Article by Alan Ayckbourn and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.

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