Ayckbourn's Artificial People


McGrath, M. 2017. Ayckbourn's Artificial People. Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction. 46 (128), pp. 60-72.
TitleAyckbourn's Artificial People
AuthorsMcGrath, M.

Alan Ayckbourn is best known for his determinedly middle class comedies, which typically – in works like Absurd Person Singular (1972), Bedroom Farce (1975) and A Chorus of Disapproval (1984) – deal with marriages under stress and disintegrating domestic relationships. His work is immensely popular, frequently revived – particularly by amateur and semi-professional companies – but he is little studied. He is of particular interest in the context of Stage The Future because of his repeated use of science fictional elements in his writing, with future settings, time travel, robots and even space exploration featuring in a number of his plays and used to cast light upon the playwright’s recurring concerns. This paper will focus specifically on how Ayckbourn has used gynoids and androids in the plays Surprises (2012), Comic Potential (1998) and Henceforward... (1987). The contention is that beneath the lightness and comedic qualities of Ayckbourn’s writing – qualities that undoubtedly contribute to an absence of critical analysis of his work – there are issues of power and conflict, particularly between genders (but also between classes) that are fundamental to Ayckbourn’s work. In his science fictional plays Ayckbourn uses artificial people to explore how love leads us to attempt to manipulate and reshape the objects of our desires and, since we live in a society in which the power relationships between men and women are often distorted and one-sided, this inevitably means that men use relationships of affection to dominate women. Ayckbourn, though, is an instinctive (if not theoretically rigorous) feminist and this is reflected in the way that his artificial people tend to overthrow their supposed limitation. Ayckbourn’s artificial people, this paper contends, bring into sharpest focus the playwright’s concern with relationships as a crucible of social status in his writing.

PublisherScience Fiction Foundation
JournalFoundation: The International Review of Science Fiction
Publication dates
Print31 Dec 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Sep 2018
Accepted08 Apr 2016
Output statusPublished
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Copyright Statement

Copyright © 2017 The Science Fiction Foundation. This work has been made available in the Middlesex University Research Repository with permission from the publisher. This is the final published version of the work, which was originally published in Foundation: The International Review Of Science Fiction, 46 (128). pp. 60-72.

Web address (URL)http://www.sf-foundation.org/publications/foundation/index.html
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