Just Between Ourselves: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

This page includes quotes and observations about the play Just Between Ourselves by people other than Alan Ayckbourn, predominantly drawn from books and articles about Alan Ayckbourn or British theatre. Reviews of the play can be found in the Reviews pages.

"I am at the mercy of my material. Whichever way it takes me I go with it. With
Just Between Ourselves it would have been a monstrous betrayal of her [Vera] to have it turned into farce at the end."
(Evening News, 24 February 1978)

"The woman was left at the end, alone and in a catatonic state of madness. Hardly the upbeat ending of farce, but I contend honest to the character. If I don't do anything else, at least I don't betray my characters by forcing them into situations that are untrue to them."
(Washington Star, 18 February 1979)

"There was one occasion in
Just Between Ourselves, when I wrote the thing, read it and a scene I thought was there wasn't! I actually had it in my mind and I hadn't put it in the play! I snatched all the scripts back and rewrote about four pages, came back and everybody said 'oh yes, I see...' because it was an extraordinary jump."
(Unknown publication, 31 October 1980)

"Although people are sometimes upset by
Just Between Ourselves, I think they would have been more upset long-term if I had somehow put the woman into a plight and artificially plucked her out of it - which never happens and is no help."
(Birmingham Post, 27 December 1980)

"I never sit down to write a grim play. Vera in
Just Between Ourselves took me by surprise. I was going to write about man who was awfully nice and friendly and whom everyone loathed - there is a strange breed like that. But out of the corner of my eye I saw this wife, she just came in with a cup of tea to start with, and she was crumbling away. And l thought, hang on, what's happening to her?"
(The Times, 4 February 1981)

"I discovered that I could strip the layers off the people a little bit and find, perhaps, less typical emotions than you find in your average comedy, like anger and jealousy and fear and rage and lust."
(Conversations with Ayckbourn, 1981)

"My plays although comedies are of course full of darkness - some more than others.
Just Between Ourselves is one of my very blackest plays. Vera's final plight is unrelieved and there's no sudden comic rescue for her - which in any case would have meant a total betrayal had I done so. I suppose the reason for this is I try, within the limits of dramatic form and the tacit acceptance that to a certain extent all theatre is artificial, to allow my characters a truthful existence. I try to allow them to behave as their natures dictate they should and would behave. Inevitably there are times when this leads us into some very uncomic, rather black areas of human existence - the tragic and the comic anyway are never more than an inch apart."
(Personal correspondence)

Just Between Myself is the most downbeat of all my plays, thus far [as of 1990]. I could have saved Vera - but only by stepping on to the stage and physically removing her. Poor Vera certainly had no one to aid her escape. And indeed, sadly, most Veras don't. As a writer, I try never to opt for the happy ending if the dramatic circumstances don't justify it. The result if I did that would be - I think - a momentary relief for the audience that there had been a happy ending, after all - but subsequently, for many of them, a sense of let down and betrayal - a feeling that 'life just isn't like that, would that it were'.
"My writing, some have observed, has got a little darker over the years. I think by that they mean that I more overtly concern myself with the less sunny side of human nature. I think, actually, what fascinates me is the dramatic potential in juxtaposing the dramatic and the comic side by side, thus setting up in an audience a sort of emotional and intellectual tension. Testing their preconceived perceptions to events. Sometimes luring them into reacting to something in a way that they wouldn't normally react. Not simply as some giant April Fool prank but in order to let them see things from a different angle. I think in the end my plays are all about seeing things from another angle."
(Personal correspondence, 1990)

"The point about Dennis is he is what he is. What he is is pretty awful admittedly, sometimes. But his defence is that he doesn’t know it. If he could sit at the back of the stalls and watch himself (supposing he even recognised himself) he’d be staggered at people’s reaction to him. He’s genuinely doing his best to spread cheer and goodwill to all men - and women.
"His fault is that - like many of us - he edits his life as he goes. Removes the bits that don’t quite fit with his view of the world as it should be. In reality - despite his bonhomie he’s as frightened of the world and people as Vera. His garage is his sanctuary. Strangers are to be feared. The only way he can deal with them is to sort of smother them in trivia and small talk. Anything rather than let them in to his life where they might threaten and even involve him. As a small boy he long ago put his real feelings away in a box."
(Personal correspondence, date unknown)

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