Drowning On Dry Land: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

Many of the quotes on this page make comparisons to the English footballer David Beckham's headline grabbing alleged extra-marital affair in 2004, which coincidentally had come to light at approximately the same time as Drowning On Dry Land was originally announced.

"I don't really want to ally it to the Beckhams or anyone specific. But I guess there are parallels. The wife of the famous guy was once herself recognised in supermarkets. She was a TV presenter but stopped working to have children. Then she missed being recognised and resolutely resists becoming just Mrs Charlie Conrad. She needs to be in the spotlight. But to do so, she has to get out of his spotlight. One knows in ordinary theatre there are husbands and wives who are very happy to remain very supportive of their mate. But there are others, if one becomes a very famous actor, the other can't cope with it. It depends how you're made....
"He's [Charlie] the sort of man who's caught the public's imagination because he is so ordinary. Everyone else can feel slightly superior and they like him for that. But it's a tenuous existence. He begins to doubt why he is what he is....
"The whole thing inverts itself in the end and the last become first and the first become last. In the midst of it, there are people who sit there and make money, the agents and the promoters. I wrote it because at the end of last year I got intrigued by celebrity culture along with everybody else. I was intrigued why people were so desperate to be famous for doing so little. I saw a girl on TV jumping up and down, waving her arms and asking, 'Am I famous yet?' when she hadn't really done anything. I was talking to somebody the other day and they came up with the theory that none of us feels as involved in our communities as we did and some people need to find their identities in television and the media. It's a media play, really, but wider than that. It asks my usual sort of thing - who we are and why we are - but it's an unusual piece for me in that it has a topicality."
(Yorkshire Post, 26 April 2004)

"When I wrote the play, it was all fairly quiet. The celebrity hype scene seemed to have quietened down, and now suddenly it has kicked up again. People have been asking me 'Did you know that David Beckham was going to have an affair', as if I had been sifting over and reading the tabloids, which I certainly don't....
"At least Beckham is a good footballer but there are others who are famous just for standing in a bucket of weevils. I was talking to [the actor] Matthew Kelly the other day and he suggested it all came down to a feeling of anonymity; he said people didn't have a role to play any more where once we all had a place, as a bank manager or a butcher or a teacher, whatever. Certainly my 'hero' in
Drowning On Dry Land does doubt his place; was a sporting failure who became a national hero for breaking down and being like [the English ski-jumper] Eddie the Eagle, and essentially he's a guy with a sweet personality but what else? I think there is truth in what he [Matthew Kelly] says. There is a feeling in that we can all be famous, which is an awful blind alley. Like Erika Roe streaking across Twickenham; that was a sort of fame, but she's not as famous as the players were, though we don't remember what the match was. There is a ruthlessness in the play that reflects how we're happy to chuck people, going back to the days of poor old Simon Dee [the Sixties DJ]. The public memory goes so fast. I know this because I'm not known much in the world of film and television, and among young people who come to the Stephen Joseph Theatre I'm known only for the last couple of plays. You have to keep writing or the book closes....
"It is a disposable culture; there will be a day not long ahead when everyone has their own website with pictures that say 'here's me in my bath'. That's just what we want at breakfast....
"Theatre is the ultimate disposable format. If you miss it, you miss it, you can't video it. There is immediacy to it, where everyone is gathered that night in a specific ceremony, giving matters their due time. Theatre doesn't have to worry about a build-up to a commercial break; it has respect for its own format, and it works in real time....
"Normally I reflect on contemporary issues at a distance, but then
Drowning On Dry Land is not a David Hare-style reflection on celebrity so much as a play about being touched by celebrity. It is a humorous play but there are moments of sadness when fame walks away from you. If you are raw, celebrity can hit you like an express train and it can be hard to cope but I was lucky, it came gradually and theatre is not the movies. It doesn't have that madness. You'll see actors with that long lens look worrying at paparazzi around the corner, but people don't know writers like they know actors and I say thank God for that."
(Yorkshire Evening Press, 30 April 2004)

"[Charlie is] the ultimate modern celebrity, in that he has never actually managed to do anything. I was partly amused, partly fascinated by the way so many people seem to be scrambling to become celebrities based on very little ability....
"The worst thing that can happen to you is to believe your own publicity and what people (particularly your press agent) say about you. One must resist because that way madness lies."
(The Independent, 3 January 2005)

"It's my take on the celebrity culture. I think getting onto reality TV shows and behaving outrageously is a sort of desperation for identity, a short cut to recognition. People's identities have broken down - you used to be the baker or the blacksmith, nowadays you're just the bloke at no. 41. So this opportunity for recognition becomes irresistible for many people. And all you need, it seems, is a certain amount of chutzpah....
"It's ironic, I suppose. At the beginning there's a distinct pecking order - the famous on top, the people who live off them underneath. By the end the circle has moved around, so that someone previously very insignificant is suddenly feted everywhere they go."
(Venue, 28 January 2005)

"I became interested in writing about what it was like to be a celebrity with no discernible ability, apart from, perhaps, a certain quirkiness or charisma. Charlie Conrad, the central character, is like that, one of life's nice guys, with no side to him. A bit like a dog, really, but he can't actually do anything. There's a key moment when one of the characters says to him that he used to worry about being useless, but then met Charlie and didn't worry any more."
(Bath Chronicle, 28 January 2005)

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn