This week, 31 years ago, Alan Ayckbourn’s play A Small Family Business opened in New York in 1992 following its triumphant original run at the National Theatre in 1987.
It was described, at the time, as Alan Ayckbourn’s state-of-the-nation play and certainly reflected his views on the decline of the UK at that time.
Alan wrote a short introduction to the play in 1989 and it seems apposite to reprint it here given the current the UK’s political and social situation. Not much appears to have changed in three decades…
A Small Family Business by Alan Ayckbourn
A Small Family Business has been described by some in Britain as my “state-of-the-nation” play. I suppose there’s a certain truth in that, though I would hate to think that it could be interpreted as a political piece. Social yes, political no.
Politics and politicians are after all, in a democracy, merely the symptoms of that society’s current disease. They neither cause it and rarely can they cure it.
The sickness in this instance seems to me to be an insidious erosion of any agreed moral code of behaviour. When is it right to steal? Is it ever permissible to kill another human being? Are there special circumstances where certain criminal acts become permissible?
A lot of people seem to be asking these questions with increasing frequency and, alarmingly, coming up with dangerous answers.
No play can hope to answer such fundamental questions. What it does is point out, I hope, that the slope from the permissible to the unacceptable is a slippery one. The human mind left to its own devices can usually justify any code of behaviour it chooses in such circumstances. Beware!
To find our more about A Small Family Business, visit there playwright’s official website here.
Article by Alan Ayckbourn and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.