A Small Family Business: Articles

This section features articles about the play A Small Family Business by Alan Ayckbourn and other authors. Click on the relevant link in the right-hand column below to access the relevant article.

This article is drawn from correspondence by Alan Ayckbourn about A Small Family Business held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York.

Correspondence Regarding A Small Family Business

Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

Preface to Plays 1
A Small Family Business
A Response

Articles by Other Authors

A Change of Culture (Mark Ravenhill)
The characters in A Small Family Business are, like all my characters, drawn largely from myself with occasional reference to people, past and present, in my personal life. But there are no actual studies from real life, no full length portraits of family or friends and certainly nothing remotely completely autobiographical.

I think people, sadly, don’t change that much or at any rate for the better! People today are still behaving very much in the same way as those in the 1987 play. So much for plays changing society.
A Small Family Business is essentially a morality play in which a character, Jack, starts out as pure as driven snow, as we say, gradually and initially with the best intentions, compromises his beliefs in pursuit of self interest.

It was a play born very much out of the climate at that time with Thatcher’s Britain in full rampant unstoppable flow. That philosophy of putting self first, society second, of every man for himself, is still very much alive. Rather than changing it has grown - witness the recent world wide financial crises - and is an ingrown norm in our society.

An anecdote: - During the run of the production at the National Theatre, a friend told me a story which illustrates this point. My friend found himself sitting next to a distinguished politician at a dinner one evening, indeed this person was a member of Thatcher’s cabinet. The politician mentioned he had seen
A Small Family Business a few nights earlier and said he found the play absolutely hilarious from start to finish. He’d never laughed so much in his life.

My friend was a little puzzled by this reaction, fearing the politician may have rather missed the point of the play, and pointed out that occasionally the story got rather dark (including at one stage a bloody murder onstage!) and that also the ending was really quite tragic with the younger daughter, Sammy, whom her father had set out to protect at the beginning, now in the final throes of heroin addiction. Drugs moreover that Jack had very probably been responsible for importing, thus indirectly causing the death of his own daughter.

The politician roared with laughter and said, “Yes, but we all saw that coming, didn’t we?”

Terrifying. Change the world? I wish.

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