Body Language: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

"It is a very dark farce. It is about how we perceive ourselves and about how other people perceive us, particularly women. Depending upon their shape, they get a totally different reaction. With all the attention given to dieting and cooking, we seem to be quite obsessed with blowing up and going down."
(Evening Sentinel, 13 April 1990)

"What would happen if an overweight person suddenly overnight became of page three proportions? I wanted to show how people's perception would change and how the women would cope, or not cope."
(Scarborough Evening News, 15 May 1990)

"It struck me as interesting to have a story where people are brought up short by how they change....
"It was right to have women at the centre as men tend to judge women more on their weight. But the play is not only about the women of course; it also concerns five men's reactions to them. Female friendship is the most difficult area for a male writer. They have a closeness that you don't have between a man and a woman. I am rather fascinated by their perception of themselves as victims and machinators."
(Yorkshire Evening Press, 18 May 1990)

"[Regarding the incomprehensible dialogue of the foreign surgeon] I've always wanted to have a play where the audience and half the cast don't know what the other half are talking about."
(Daily Telegraph, 18 May 1990)

"I was first struck to write it because half the articles in Sunday papers seemed to be on how to diet and the other half on how to make cream soups and delicious fruit cakes. Food and dieting seem to be two national obsessions. I was also interested in the dictates of the female shape, the way the shape regarded as desirable has changed over the years from a classic hourglass figure to the stick promoted by today's fashion pundits. Nowadays, of course, girls don't necessarily feel they need to look good for boys but diet because they need to feel good for themselves or for other girls. One does look and wonder where the cycle will ever end. I jokingly called it 'a play for anyone who has a body', and that's about right. For most of us most of the time, our shape sort of matters. Very few people are able to say, 'What the hell - I have a big, round arse and I don't care.'...
"It was very popular when it was done in Scarborough in 1990 but there were so many other plays around at the time that it didn't get a West End transfer. It just slipped through the cracks, although it worked very well. I thought the only way to get it relaunched was to relaunch it myself. It was fairly mammoth - I've managed to trim it."
(Yorkshire Post, 20 August 1999)

"I always wanted to do
Body Language again, as I felt the first time around it needed some more work, but by the time I'd looked at it and decided that, it was already running. It was doing all right but I kept looking and thinking I'll tinker with it one day. Two or three years ago, I picked it up and in an afternoon went at it like a madman with a machete, as you do when you've been thinking about something that long, and I thought I'd do it one year."
(Scarborough Evening News, 22 September 1999)

Body Language, well, like all plays it's a mixture of different ideas, I never pick up just one idea for a play. Plays to me are intersections of various ideas which make them buoyant. This isn't really a play about our bodies, it is on how we perceive and how they alter our attitudes to the world and how the world's attitude to us changes with the shape we are; not only the shape, the image we choose to present is probably a wider issue. It is, I suppose, if you wanted to classify it, a black farce.
The story of its conception was firstly reading papers or magazines, the English best-seller charts in any week. The English best-seller books in any week usually consist of four books about dieting, six books about make-up and so on. So, we are indeed an obsessive nation. I suspect it's the same in most of the world but I am also increasingly slightly perturbed by the propaganda that's put out by all these magazines about how we should look, particularly with regard to women. So I decided to write a play where something drastic happens to two people, they change their shape. Simultaneously, I was sitting in the green room one day last year and we were talking, and somebody came in and said they had just driven to Leeds and past a very nasty accident. A car had driven under a low-loader, a lorry, the two people in the car must have been decapitated, so I said, "Do you know I remember that happened to that actress Jane Mansfield, years ago: she was decapitated". And I said it must have been the blackest joke ever played: somebody found that body by the side of the road with no head. And then an actress in the green room said "Well, don't joke about it, because look..." she showed me the scar, and she said "I went through a windscreen." So I thought it would be interesting to write a play about two women; both of them loose their heads and both of them regain them on the wrong body and how they cope. And once we plant that unlikely scenario the rest of the play I think is about coming to terms with a different shape and a different attitude to your shape. It's also I think about people finding themselves and it is indeed a love story. It is quite an unusual love-story in that it's as opposed to boy meets girl, boy gets girl, it's really girl loses man, girl loses man, girl gets girl: it ends up as a great statement of friendship between two women. And to that extent it's one of the rare moments of optimism at the end of my play."
(Alan Ayckbourn discussing the origins of Body Language in Albert-Reiner Glaap's book ‘A Guided Tour Through Ayckbourn Country')

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