Absurd Person Singular: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular. 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.

What does the title Absurd Person Singular mean and / or how does it relate to the play?
Simply put, it doesn't mean anything nor does it relate to the play. Despite many - often very clever - attempts to explain what the title means in relation to the play, ultimately they are pointless. For - as the playwright has frequently admitted - the title Absurd Person Singular was conceived in an elevator without a play in mind and was then intended for an entirely different play, which the playwright did not write. As he liked the title so much - and because it was so vague it could be applied to any number of plays - Alan attached it to his next play despite at the time not knowing what he was going to write. So Absurd Person Singular actually has nothing to do with the play itself, it was just a title the playwright liked. You can find out more in this Ayckbourn InSights video.

Why is there disparity on how the play came to be written?
In 2022, Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist - Simon Murgatroyd - and the Borthwick Institute for Archives announced the discovery of the long-thought lost original abandoned draft of Absurd Person Singular alongside concept notes and a first hand-written draft of the actual play. These completely changed our understanding of how the play came to be written and the process involved. Combined with other new recent acquisitions by the Borthwick, the entire story of the creation of Absurd Person Singular is now - demonstrably - not the same as Alan Ayckbourn has previously told. These discoveries can currently be found here.

Is there anything I should be aware if staging the play?
The playwright considers this a period piece which is very specific to the time it was written during the early 1970s. As a result, he feels the play should never be produced outside of this period and it must be made clear the play is set during the 1970s within programmes and promotional material. Alan Ayckbourn feels all his plays reflect the social period they were set in and rarely make any sense if moved from that period, hence the necessity of setting Absurd Person Singular definably during the early 1970s.
Possibly the most important advice Alan Ayckbourn has ever given with regarding to directing and performing the play is, it must be played truthfully and never for laughs. The moment any actor chooses to 'wave from the window' - as the playwright puts it - and no longer plays the truth of the character, is the moment the play not only ceases to be funny, but actually fails to work as a play. The comedy comes from the juxtaposition of characters, seriously and truthfully played.

Where can I obtain the television or radio adaptations of Absurd Person Singular?
Unfortunately, the television adaptation of Absurd Person Singular is not available to buy in the UK or European territories, where the adaptation has never been released commercially and the playwright is aware of no intention to release Absurd Person Singular in the foreseeable future. It has been made available to digitally stream in North American territories. The radio adaptation has also never been released commercially and it is not believed to be held in the BBC Archive indicating it has probably not survived.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without crediting the author and the website.