First published in The Times, Thursday August 6 2015
Line by line, Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece is so familiar you can almost hear the audience mouthing along to some of the speeches. Yet there’s a reverent hush before Margaret Preece, as Lady Bracknell, delivers the play’s most famous line. Will she opt for the time-honoured Edith Evans method of enunciating all nine of the syllables in the word “handbag” or, as it transpires, something altogether more understated but just as devastating?
First published in The Times, Tuesday July 14 2015
Faced with the prospect of having a stranger’s Bedford van parked in their driveway for more than a decade, most homeowners would have seen red. Alan Bennett, however, spotted a creative opening in his uninvited guest’s filthy clothes, offhand manner and ripe odour. His 15-year relationship with the eccentric, reactionary Miss Shepherd would ultimately lead the playwright to pen a radio series, a play and a feature film, to be released later this year.
As the writer of nearly 80 full-length plays, there can’t be much Alan Ayckbourn does not know about the creative process. The thrill of letting the imagination run riot is at the heart of his 2005 play Improbable Fiction – a theme he explores through the dreams and frustrations of a motley rural creative writing circle, led by the mild-mannered Arnold (Ronnie Simon).