By Paul M. Allen
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Extra info for Alan Ayckbourn: Grinning at the Edge: A Biography of Alan Ayckbourn
It took him nearly a year to throw off the illness. A craze for conjuring petered out at school but flourished at home - with Chris forced to wear a turban as the magician's assistant. There were model theatres to be constructed, puppet shows to be performed and more plays to be written. Chris contentedly played all the walk-on parts while Alan starred. They also had a table, meant for table-tennis, on which they constructed an entire landscape for epic adventures involving towns and model cars, lead soldiers, matchstick guns and - from Alan, who very early on was the proud possessor of a reelto-reel tape recorder - full sound-effects plus running commentary.
He earned no great kudos i n the school that he remembers: 'Half the guys were in it for a nice free skive. And then there was the serious half of us who also cared about the art. We wanted to get that right, to do a good show. Mind you, we still managed to get legless/ The production for 1955 was to be more ambitious still. The play was Macbeth and it would tour the United States and Canada. Alan didn't want to play the Porter, the character entrusted with such light relief as is to be had i n Macbeth, but the hero.
He wouldn't get a rehearsal with the rest of the company because they were already rehearsing the next week's play. But he would get a session with the director. The spinster ladies prepared a pile of sandwiches, and he learned the long part overnight. On Tuesday they ran it through once and then did it. ' Peter Byrne (later famous alongside Jack Warner in television's Dixon of Dock Green) had learned not only his own part but the whole play, as was his custom. When Alan forgot something he would say: T think I can guess what you're going to tell m e .
Alan Ayckbourn: Grinning at the Edge: A Biography of Alan Ayckbourn by Paul M. Allen