By Michael Billington (auth.)

This ebook reports the performs through Alan Ayckbourn and encompasses a biography, a survey of the performs and special research of the main major performs, in addition to dialogue, the place correct, in their political, social, ancient and theatrical context.

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We also get a revealing glimpse of the marriage when two of the men corner Emma and ask her if she feels murderously threatened. She confesses that she and Edward had their 'little problems' to start with. Edward did not like women, used to take her on long hikes and not say much, could not bear to sit in the same room with her for any length of time. It is a wan, funny, echoing portrait of an empty marriage: one that both parties have settled into as an unshakeable habit. 'But then', says Emma, 'Edward and I are a perfect example of what I've always said about marriage.

But is it really reactionary to suggest that marriage is a dilapidated institution, that it nearly always works in favour of the man, that emotions get more throttled the higher up the income bracket you go? Around the late 1960s and early 1970s feminist writers in Britain were 48 The Plots Thicken saying no less. And, without wishing to pretend that Ayckbourn was ever some kind of militant firebrand, I would claim that he was dramatising sexual politics while other people were talking about them.

Where Simon's people attempt to keep urban neurosis at bay by saying funny things in a downbeat way, Ayckbourn's characters rarely deal in one-line quotes but reveal their quirkiness through behaviour. Where Simon works basically within the parameters of Broadway comedy which always require a smidgin of uplift, Ayckbourn frequently takes the English farcicalcomedy form and stretches it to its limits. Where Simon's characters are able to change their own destinies, Ayckbourn's are frequently at the mercy of random collisions and chance events.

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