All Lies: Interviews

This section contains interviews with Alan Ayckbourn about his play All Lies. Click on a link in the right-hand column below to access the relevant interview.

This is an interview between Alan Ayckbourn and his Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, which took place during November 2021 in which the playwright discusses All Lies as well as his long relationship with The Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere, as well as its founder, the designer Roger Glossop.

All Lies: Simon Murgatroyd Interview with Alan Ayckbourn

Simon Murgatroyd: What led you to decide to direct the world premiere of your latest play, All Lies, at The Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness-on-Winderemere?
Alan Ayckbourn: I originally wrote All Lies as a small-scale show during lockdown, but because I’m already involved in writing another new play for my home theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, I thought that rather than waste All Lies, I’d offer it to The Old Laundry. What is nice is this is a world premiere and it is The Old Laundry’s world premiere.

What inspired you to write All Lies?
With all this business about fake news and people with various versions of the truth, it struck me that a play was due where people with the best will in the world told lies about themselves. It occurred to me then that most of us did this in the very early stages of our relationships, mainly to bolster our claim for the one we are attracted to’s heart, as it were. Increasing our possible credentials for their affections.

But the play is not actually set in the present day?
Obviously in this day and age with the internet and everyone having an iPhone, we can check on each other almost instantaneously. I had to set it back in the times when we still communicated primarily through writing to each other and so this is set back in the 1950s, more or less in my equivalent childhood.

What is All Lies about?
The premise is a boy goes reluctantly to the Last Night of the Proms and he meets there a girl, who has also gone by accident. At the beginning of the play, she writes to her friend saying, ‘I’ve met this wonderful boy at this concert and I didn’t believe it could be possible but this could be love at first sight. I’ve been able to coax out of him that he was a cellist with the Hallé Orchestra.’ Then we hear back from her friend saying, ‘oh do be careful, all your friends worry about you so much, you plunge into relationships.’

Then we see the boy writing to his sister saying, ‘I just met this fabulous girl and I don’t believe in love at first sight but this is definitely it. She’s way above me and so I hesitated to tell her I was just a humble trouser salesman, so I told her this slightly white lie that I was a cellist in the Hallé Orchestra.’ Then we get a letter from the sister saying, ‘you’re an idiot, why do you tell them these things? You’ve now got to live that lie.’

So we follow the story through from there and this tissue of lies gets thicker and thicker and she starts to tell little white lies as well. It becomes a story about how we lie and how we backtrack and whether love can survive all the lies.

You’ve had close ties with The Old Laundry Theatre since it opened in 1994, what is it that appeals to you about it?
My heart is with theatres of this size. They are on a scale I always equate with my strong feelings for the first two homes in Scarborough: The Library Theatre and the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round or Westwood as we knew it. I’m very invested in The Old Laundry and it is very close to the way we were at Westwood.

How did you originally become involved with The Old Laundry Theatre?
The Old Laundry was born out of Westwood. Roger Glossop - who is part of the partnership that runs The Old Laundry - is also a very successful designer and has designed a lot of my plays in both the West End and Scarborough over the years. We were standing in the Westwood auditorium one day during the 1990s and Roger said, out of the blue, ’what I’d really love is to have a theatre like this in Bowness.’ And I said, ‘why don’t you go for it? If you do, I’m sure we can exchange productions. We can bring our shows over to you and you could bring yours to us, which would be ideal.’ It was like a pipe dream, one of those things you say on the spur of the moment.

Unexpectedly, Roger phoned me a few weeks later and said, ‘we’re on our way, the theatre’s opening on so and so and would you come and open it?’ And I said, ‘that’s amazing.’ And he’d converted part of the former laundry which already housed his World of Beatrix Potter Attraction and created a fully flexible space designed primarily to be in-the-round, which was almost identical to when you were on stage to Westwood. Indeed, so identical, that many of the actors having played in Scarborough for several weeks, then came to Bowness and had trouble adjusting! Occasionally, they really thought for a moment, mid-performance, they were in Scarborough and got a shock when they went off-stage and walked straight into a wall!

Our then current Scarborough production - the world premiere of my play
Time Of My Life - opened the theatre. Since then, the relationship has gone on and strengthened with my plays transferring annually from the SJT.

And how did you and Roger Glossop first meet?
Roger was introduced to me by my London agent, Michael Codron. I suspect there was something about Roger that appealed to Michael as I think my current designers were becoming a bit expensive, so he was looking for a new talent. Roger had the advantage that he also ran with his partner, Lottie, a scenic building company based in Sheffield. So they could build sets at a cut price from London just by being in Sheffield and by being run on very good lines with some really skilled northern technicians on site. So it was an all win situation as far as the producer was concerned - a cheaper set and slightly less expensive designer!

Our first production together was the West End premiere of my play
Woman In Mind and Roger came up with a very good design for it; it was quite a problem play it has to be said and Roger produced some very witty scenery and ideas.

Roger and I formed quite a friendship. I think he genuinely enjoyed the challenges I threw at him and he has an amazing imagination.

And, finally, why should we come to see All Lies at The Old Laundry?
I think it is an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes of your life, It’s good fun. And which of us has not told white lies to our partner at some stage if only to impress them?

Interview by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do note reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.