A Brief History Of Women: Articles by Alan Ayckbourn


Preface to Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 6
In A Brief History Of Women, I have metaphorically moved my camera as far back as I ever have done, tracing events over a period of sixty years from the mid-1920s to the mid-1980s. Notionally its central character is a farmer's son, Anthony Spates, whom we see first as a callow apprentice footman at the Manor House and subsequently, through various incarnations, until finally as the manager of the same house, now transformed into a hotel.

I refer to him notionally as being the hero but in truth the house itself is the central character, as we follow it from being once a grand, if decaying country home, then an under-heated Second World War girls' school, a 1960s run-down arts centre and finally a somewhat plasticised version of its original self, the modern country house hotel.

The 'history' in the title has a double meaning of its own (but then, which of my titles hasn't?). On the one hand, the story charts the considerable social journey women have made from the days of early suffrage through to the first shallows of women's lib. It is also a personal view of several individual women, seen through the eyes of Spates himself, all of whom affected and altered and shaped his life. I admit it was fun, for once, to explore these contrasting time periods and, to establish for each, differing attitudes and styles of speech. What's more, in the final pages, I experienced a rare glow of author satisfaction, writing something that in turn I feel is equally funny, touching and sad whilst remaining true to the characters themselves.

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