Ten Times Table: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

"It is a parable of our time. Committees bring out a side of people one does not ordinarily see. I spent a year on various committees to get Westwood [the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round] going, and it has been ringing in my ears. My author's eye was watching with interest. The play is about the committee attempting to organise a local pageant, and the politics - both with a small and a big 'p' - that come out of it. There are certain polarisations in society, with the private-army merchants on the right and the Marxist reactionaries on the left, and it is written from the point of view of the little man in the middle. It is probably the broadest play I have written for some time. I hope it is not a complete diversion from what I have been writing, but I also hope it is a little different."
(Scarborough Evening News, 13 January 1977)

"One professional committee man managed to string out the [local council] meetings for about four hours, so I wrote him into the play. Everyone recognised him. On the first night, in Scarborough, people were nudging me and saying: 'Blimey, we know who that is.' And then I saw the actual councillor in the audience. I was dreading what he would say, but he was delighted, went to see himself in the play every night. The last thing he asked me was: 'Who's going to play Me in London?'
Ten Times Table] is a parable of our times, written by someone crouching in the middle along with most of the population, praying not to be hit by a stray bullet."
(Evening News, 24 February 1978)

"It's quite a jolly play, I wrote it in Jubilee year* and I suppose you could say it's a parable of our times. It's about a committee set up to organise a small-town pageant. The local Marxists see it as a golden opportunity to promote their cause. There was a pageant going on in Scarborough** when I wrote it and some of the organisers haven't spoken to me since. It contains some near libellous portraits. The last word someone said to me as I got on the train to London was: 'Who's playing me?'
"Committee people are a race apart. I spent a year on committees in Scarborough. It changes your personality, like driving a car. Small men can become very big men and, conversely, important people are reduced to nothing. There are basically three types - the unstoppable talkers, the people who never say anything and my type - the ones who never turn up at all."
(Richmond & Twickenham Times, 17 March 1978)

*Alan Ayckbourn actually wrote the play late during the preceding year, 1976.
** The Richard III festival in the town which actually took place several months prior to Alan writing the play.

"Last year, I broke down in the middle [of writing
Ten Times Table]. I actually got to a point in the play when I had to admit "I simply can't go on, I don't know where we are." 48 hours before we started reading it. And we turned back, to do my other trick. I was on page 46, or something, and I want back to page 23. That's 23 pages thrown away, which is a hell of a lot of a play: it was a third or a quarter of the play."
(Municipal Entertainment, May 1978)

"I began to realise that there are these wonderful committee people. It's rather like people behind the wheels of cars. They change into different people. And the meek really do inherit the earth! They're dogged and they keep raising points of order, and you think, 'My goodness, that man actually runs our lives, because none of us can be bothered to go to those meetings.' But he never misses one and, before you know it, you've got a new ring road!"
(Women's Weekly, 12 January 1980)

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn