Christmas V Mastermind: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

“That [Christmas V Mastermind] was the most disastrous play I've ever done. It was the only one of mine that Peter Cheeseman directed and I think we had very different views on what children's theatre should be about. Peter and I have actually grown together a lot more in recent years. At that time, I think we were diametrically opposed about many things.… Certainly, that play was one that he shouldn't have done. I probably shouldn't have written it either, but it had pieces of whimsy in it which we might just have brought off. It was the first winter in Stoke, so there was again no audience. It's lovely to see now that the theatre is pre-sold ten weeks, or something, but at that time we got no audiences at all. It was a play about Father Christmas, who was actually a very unpleasant old man. He was faced with industrial trouble. His chief gnome had called the men out. The gnome was inspired by an evil character called the Crimson Gollywog, who was not that at all, but who had a special gang whose object was to take over Father Christmas anyway. They incited the gnomes to this revolutionary action just before Christmas and also abducted his fairy helper. It was quite a broad, jolly farce, with lots of fights in telephone boxes. And there were two policeman, who tracked everything down, disguised as hedges and letterboxes. But it was received in dreadful silence. None of it seemed to succeed and we died the death with it.”
(Ian Watson, ‘Conversations With Ayckbourn’)

“I think you've got to be allowed a certain amount of learning time - you know, learning what you can do as well as learning what you can't do, really; and I think in
Christmas V Mastermind I was learning what I can't do. I can't write successfully for kids, because I don't have the interest. And all the best children's writers I've met have been totally devoted to what they're doing.”
(Ian Watson, ‘Conversations With Ayckbourn’)

“Again, not a success. It was my last full-length children's play for 26 years. It was also the last of my plays that I appeared in. I played a villain in a dressing gown who pushed a Christmas fairy out of a fifth floor window having fastened her wings together with a bulldog clip. One of the few laughs in the show, I recall, though like
Dad's Tale hardly any children came to see it so it never really stood much of a chance. A woman wrote and said, after watching it, she was never coming to our theatre again. Ah, me.”
(‘Ayckbourn At 50’ souvenir programme)

“It was our first attempt at a Christmas play for children and it happened to coincide with a winter of record cold. We did not realise then that children’s audiences need most exclusive matinee scheduling and put it on in the evening to audiences of two or three wrapped in blankets with thermos flasks, etc. I can distinctly remember seeing the actors’ breath on stage as we had only rudimentary boilers.”
(Interview with Peter Cheeseman)

"That's a chapter of my life I wish to forget!"
(Radio Cumbria, 10 November 2010)

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn