Private Fears In Public Places: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd answers me of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Private Fears In Public Places.

Why are there no ages for the characters in the published play text?
A good question.
Private Fears In Public Places was written to be performed by a specific acting company; having been working with his company at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2004 on Drowning On Dry Land, Alan was inspired to write another play for this company. As a result, knowing the production did not have to be cast, the manuscript just listed the character's names and this was then reproduced when the play was published.
The original production was performed by actors in their 30s except for Ambrose who was older. However as productions since - and the Alain Resnais film - have demonstrated it is possible for a wide variation in the characters' ages. Ideally though, the characters should be within their 30s.

Is Ambrose gay?
The implication - never overtly stated is that Ambrose is gay. It hinges on the crucial line when Ambrose and Dan are talking about relationships:

Ambrose: Ours was a good relationship and well worth pursuing and we got together again and never looked back.
Dan: And lived happily ever after.
Ambrose: Happily, yes. Sadly not ever after.
Dan: No? She walked out again did she?
Ambrose: No. They died.

Ironically, this final line is mis-printed in the Faber publication
Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 4 to 'She died' totally subverting the original intention of the line! (see Script Correction for details). Having been ambiguous about the situation with Dan, the real clue then emerges at the end of the play when Charlotte asks Ambrose about the picture of he and another man:

Charlotte: The photograph on the sideboard. The one with you and that other young man, was that your brother?
Ambrose: No, no. Just a friend. He’s dead now.

The inferred conclusion being that both were in a relationship and that Ambrose is gay - which adds a certain irony to Charlotte completely misreading him and giving him one of her sex tapes at the conclusion of the play. It is a very subtle part of the play text.

I'm producing the play and notice it doesn't have an interval, could one be inserted?
Private Fears In Public Places was written as a one act play to be performed without an interval and that is the author's preferred method of staging. Given the structure of the play and the frequent and fast moves between scenes, interrupting the play would break its rhythm and structure. An interval would not benefit this play and it should be performed as intended.

How long does Private Fears In Public Places run? Other websites, such as Wikipedia, note it runs between 90 minutes and 110 minutes.
Private Fears In Public Places is a one act play which runs to approximately 105 minutes. The Alan Ayckbourn-directed play consistently ran to this length during its original Scarborough production as well as Ayckbourn's revival at Scarborough and the Orange Tree Theatre, London, and during its month-long residency in New York in 2005. Show reports held in archive from all these productions record an average of 105 minutes with little significant discrepancy of more than a couple of minutes either way.
The show has never run to 90 minutes and is an inaccuracy on Wikipedia's part (one of a number of significant inaccuracies relating to Alan Ayckbourn's plays on the site), possibly as a result of an incorrect report by the critic Alfred Hickling in The Guardian which noted the show running 90 minutes despite the fact the show report for that particular performance confirms it ran to 107 minutes.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.

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