Relatively Speaking: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking. If you have a question about this or any other of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, you can contact the website via the Contact Us page.

Can I modernise / update the play?
No. This is a play set firmly at the time it was written of 1965. It is a play which reflects its time of writing and Alan Ayckbourn firmly believes the majority of his plays are period pieces which should be performed in those same periods. It makes no sense to update or modernise the play because it will no longer be credible - particularly due to the lack of mobile phones. The attitudes of the characters are also firmly based in the era when they are written. It's worth bearing in mind that according to the playwright, as written, Greg is a character born in 1938 - patently he is not going to act the same way or have the same frame of references as someone of his equivalent age in the 21st century.
Relatively Speaking is a play written in 1965, set in 1965 and reflecting the attitudes and society of 1965. If a need is felt to alter the play as a result of that, then perhaps the question should be asked, have you chosen the right play to perform?

On the first page of the script, Greg refers to Sabu and an elephant, what is this referencing?
Greg is making a reference to the award-winning 1937 film Elephant Boy which thrust its young star, Sabu, to international fame. It is based on the story Toomai of the Elephants from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. By arranging his sheet into a loin loth and mentioning Sabu, Greg is making a cinematic reference that would have been very familiar to audiences of the play at the time of its world and West End premieres.

Whose are the slippers Sheila finds at the end of the play?
Greg discovers the slippers at the flat and brings them with him to The Willows, placing them into a plant pot where they are later discovered by Sheila. Their origin is never explained, but the implication - as they are not Philip's size - is that Ginny has had other lovers than Philip and these have been left by one of them at her flat.

What happened to the letters Ginny comes to retrieve from Philip?
That's actually an unresolved plot point and we never discover what happens to them.

There have been several substantively different versions of Relatively Speaking including the original production and the first West End production, are they available to perform?
No. Alan considers the published version of Relatively Speaking to be the definitive edition of the play and this is the only version available to perform. With regard to the original production, Meet My Father, it was substantively cut by the director and the author does not believe it benefited the play. The original West End production is considered a work-in-progress which led to the definitive version of the play.

Is it possible to read the original Meet My Father manuscript?
Yes, it is held in archive within the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York and also within the Lord Chamberlain's Collection at the British Library. Both manuscripts are available to read onsite for research purposes. It is worth noting, the British Library's manuscript is a clean version and does not include the substantive cuts made by Stephen Joseph for the original production, a photocopy of which is also held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York.

Where can I obtain the television adaptations of Relatively Speaking?
Unfortunately, neither of the television adaptations of Relatively Speaking are available. The original 1969 adaptation is not held in the BBC's archives and is not believed to have survived. The 1989 adaptation has never been released commercially and the playwright is aware of no intention by the BBC to release this adaptation in the foreseeable future.

Where can I obtain the BBC radio adaptation of Relatively Speaking?
Whilst Relatively Speaking was released on audio cassette by the BBC in 1990, the radio adaptation has never been rereleased or made available in any other format. It is now exceptionally difficult to obtain copies of the 1990 cassette and the playwright is aware of no intention by the BBC to release this adaptation in the foreseeable future.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.

The Relatively Speaking section of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website is supported by Michael T. Mooney