Relatively Speaking: Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes offers a glimpse at some rarely known facts regarding the writing of Alan Ayckbourn's plays with material drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York and the playwright's personal archive.
  • There has always been some confusion as to how the title of Meet My Father originated. Alan Ayckbourn has noted that he had thought of the title Meet My Mother, which Stephen Joseph then altered to Meet My Father: “[I] clutched, from the air, a title ... Meet My Mother.” However, in an article he wrote in 1969 and an interview with the Financial Times in 1971, Alan suggests it was actually Stephen Joseph who imposed the title of Meet My Mother with Alan altering it to Meet My Father as it sounded more dramatic. The truth of the matter is likely never to be known.
  • Alan wrote the play at a holiday cottage in Collingham, West Yorkshire, and it appears his neighbour had an impact on the play. Not only was the play written with the neighbour's cat, Pamela, ensconced on Alan's lap but the name of Sheila was taken from the neighbour; Alan had initial misgivings whether this might be libellous!
  • Stephen Joseph made extensive cuts to Alan Ayckbourn's original draft of Meet My Father, which Alan once described as: “When he [Stephen Joseph] found it was over-running, characteristically he just tore the middle pages out at random. Despite this, it seemed to work.” This always seemed a bit of an exaggeration - until an actual actor's manuscript from the original production was discovered in 2008. Thick marker pen lines had been drawn across substantial amounts of the script verifying Alan Ayckbourn's original assertion. The original manuscript ran to 114 pages, with Stephen's excisions it ran to just 85 pages. Astonishingly, a quarter of the play had been cut.
  • Famously, the play made an impression on the playwright Noël Coward, who sent Alan Ayckbourn a telegram praising Relatively Speaking. Unfortunately, when it arrived at the BBC in Leeds (where Alan Ayckbourn then worked), there was postage of 14 shillings (70p) to pay and Alan did not believe it was genuine. He threw the telegram away before later - fortunately - retrieving it. The original telegram is now held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute at the University of York and can be seen below.

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Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce the written material or the image of the telegram without the permission of the copyright holders.

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