The Divide: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

"I’ve already written the next thing! It’s called The Divide and is something of an experiment. It’s a deliberate attempt to jump away from anything familiar to me. It’s quite worrying at the moment as I’m not too sure what it is. It’s a dialogue based upon two diaries; one of a boy and one of a girl growing up in a weird world. I hope we’ll be able to do a sneak preview of it this year as part of the 60th anniversary events, use a few friendly actors and have a gala reading of it."
(Interview with Simon Murgatroyd, April 2015)

“I wanted to challenge the director in me to write something that was ‘unstageable’.
The Divide could be a radio play, a movie or I’d love to reinvent it as a full production but it’s so big that, as far as I know, this will be a unique one-off, the one occasion anyone will get a chance to see, hear or experience it.* I’ve written it for younger audiences, it’s less Game of Thrones, more social satire. It’s a dystopian fantasy set in a completely reimagined world where men and women live separately.”
(Stephen Joseph Theatre press release, 29 August 2015)

"I set myself into freefall. I wrote something I knew was going to be virtually impossible for me to direct. Budget-wise it was too big, logistically it was impossible: bottomless ponds, whole villages, waterfalls, caves… It was like a novel.'
(The List, 14 July 2017)

"There are two reasons for that [why
The Divide focuses on women]. One was that I was brought up in a single-parent family with a mother who gave me a somewhat biased slant on the world from the woman's point of view. Most of her friends were women and I spent my formative years listening to women talking. The second is when I started writing for the theatre, we were running a company up here and it was a 50–50 split, a genuinely egalitarian company. I strictly limited myself to the women's side of the Divide because it was more interesting. I imagined the other side in little glimpses as male mayhem, with a lot of violence in the streets.'
(The List, 14 July 2017)

“It began by me saying that you have really got to get out of this cosy routine you are in. And I suspect cosy routines. I always try to do something in every play, something to scare myself. But I thought, ‘I think I need a bit more of a scare this year.’ So I wrote ‘waterfall’ and ‘bottomless pool’ and a village full of characters that no theatre I work with could possibly afford.”
(The Times, 22 July 2017)

“One can’t understand a word the younger generation are saying now. They talk in absolute gibberish. But why should one? My parents didn’t understand what I was saying. I wanted something that could talk to them, though. I wanted to make the playing field flat enough to say: ‘These are the rules and we have all got to play by them.’ In this case we make a world in which women are infectious and men are vulnerable and let’s take it from there. And also there is a nice satirical edge in it that inverts everything that is normal. Heterosexuality becomes the abnormality.”

(The Times, 22 July 2017)

"It bears no resemblance to anything I have ever written before. For one thing, I wrote it not as a play but as a draft scenario, or perhaps a graphic novel. It was shapeless, in five parts, nearly ten hours long, with a minimum cast of 30 and reckless disregard for scenes or costume budgets… In other words, I stopped short in my writing process, disregarding my usual practise of solving practically all the staging problems."
(The Scotsman, 29 July 2017)

“The best science-fiction, in my opinion, usually takes the form of a cautionary tale for the present; if we continue to do this, then this will happen. I see
The Divide as a sexual satire in which the enforced separation of the sexes, at the risk of human extinction, causes an upending of social norms when heterosexuality is considered unnatural and same sex relationships are the established norm. Yes, it is dark, but it’s equally quite funny, too.”
(The Herald, 8 August 2017)

“Traditionally, I have directed the first productions of all my plays. Lately, this has become something of what one might describe as a symbiotic process, and I recently became conscious that for the author, having the director sitting on his shoulder during the initial writing process could be detrimental to the writer’s freedom. Which, added to all the other restrictions - the financial and physical limitations of the Stephen Joseph Theatre space - was becoming a trifle stifling. I decided the writer was to be allowed complete freedom without limitations of space or budget. In other words to write something that the director in me would find un-directable! The result was a piece on a very large scale, requiring dozens of performers and numerous locations and covering a considerable time scale.”
(The Herald, 8 August 2017)

* The playwright is referring to
The Divide's initial read-through as part of there Stephen Joseph Theatre's 60th anniversary celebrations in 2015.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn.