Woman In Mind: Quotes by Other People

This page includes quotes about the play Woman In Mind by people other than Alan Ayckbourn, predominantly drawn from books and articles about Alan Ayckbourn or British theatre; it does not include quotes from reviews, which can be found in the Reviews pages.

"She [Susan] has escaped into a fantasy world with an ideal family. It is, however, a recurring theme of Ayckbourn's that fantasy families and friends are even more destructive than the real thing."
(Paul Allen: A Pocket Guide to Alan Ayckbourn's Plays, 2004, Faber)

"This is a tough and dangerous play…. Woman In Mind invites us to experience the collapse of Susan's sanity from the inside, not through the multi-headed narrative involving other characters (as in Just Between Ourselves). The fluent sequence of scenes, unbroken by anything more than lighting changes, gives it something of the quality of a runaway train; there is no let-up. Susan's intelligence turned destructively inwards for want of another outlet…. Ayckbourn's dramatic gift is nowhere better expressed than in the device of a twisted language that starts as comedy, disappears for two hours and then returns with savage force as Susan describes a creature so completely out of place and time ['December Bee'] while desperately asking us to 'remember me'.
(Paul Allen: A Pocket Guide to Alan Ayckbourn's Plays, 2004, Faber)

"He [Ayckbourn] writes about women with a sympathy and understanding unrivalled amongst his male contemporaries. His plays are filled with neglected, frustrated, unfulfilled middle-class wives (Hedda Gablers of the suburbs) ignored or deceived by their husbands and untrained for meaningful careers."
(Michael Billington, The Guardian, 19 July 1985)

"Ayckbourn looks safe: in fact, he takes outlandish risks. He writes, initially for a comfortably seaside audience who have clearly come for a good night out. He then gives them a play like Woman In Mind which deals with temporary insanity, which puts the agents of God and the Devil on stage and which leaves the audience constantly guessing as to what is reality and what is fantasy. But perhaps his greatest risk - and a sign of his maturity as a dramatist - is that he leaves it to us to decide what is funny."
(Michael Billington, The Guardian, 19 July 1985)

"It [
Woman In Mind] offers one of the most sympathetic, imaginative, compassionate accounts of womanhood written by any British dramatist since the war (Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea is its most serious rival)."
(Michael Billington: Alan Ayckbourn, 1990, Palgrave)

"With this play the dated notion of Ayckbourn as a mild-mannered farceur is decisively laid to rest. He is writing about madness, menopausal female frustration and the failure of religion to do its proper work in the world. The miracle is that the play still manages to be hugely funny."
(Michael Billington: Alan Ayckbourn, 1990, Palgrave)

"The effect of this realisation [Susan's belief she is making love to the Devil near the climax of the play] is intensified for the audience because Ayckbourn has fulfilled the ambition implicit in his initial stage directions. He has united audience and protagonist, making both see the world entirely from her viewpoint. The horror is that to the discomfort of the audience, and as a consequence of the completion of his stage direction, she slides into total insanity, the state lit by the blue flashing light of an ambulance. As Ayckbourn says, the audience has 'thrown in its lot with someone who isn't altogether to be trusted, either in her opinions or her perceptions."
(Michael Holt: Alan Ayckbourn, 1999, Northcote House)

"What makes the play [
Woman In Mind] effective in its movement from naturalism to expressionism is that the protagonist, until the onset of madness, is a seemingly average human being, ordinary but troubled - a twentieth century Everywoman."
(Albert F Kalson: Laughter In The Dark, 1991, Associated Universities Press)

"[A] pervasive sense of waste is what finally give
Woman In Mind its tragic shape, for Ayckbourn conceived of tragedy in structural terms rather than as moments when the affective energy of the drama precipitates in a single, appalling apprehension - as when Desdemona dies defending Othello. That's not to say that Ayckbourn is any less concerned with content than Shakespeare; on the contrary, he has defined tragedy in distinctly moral terms: 'It is to do with choices we make, wrong choices, leading to further wrong choices...'"
(John Wu: Six Contemporary Dramatists, 1995, St Martin's Press)

“I think, technically, Woman In Mind is Alan's most adventurous play to date. It goes deeper, it also has a darker tone than some of his plays for a very long time. I don’t think it’s entirely true to say that it’s a radical departure, I would rather see it as a very progressive development through all his plays, going right back to very light-weight - or so seen at the time - early comedies like Relatively Speaking. Again, Woman In Mind is set in a garden and I think there have always been serpents at the bottom of Alan’s gardens. They look deceptively seductive places but right through the plays from Relatively Speaking onwards, the darker side of human nature and indeed nature in the garden has always been there. It has taken him time, I think, to reach a level of depth such as in this play but it has been there in all his plays for really quite a long time. So it is a departure in its bravery and its technical risks, but it is also a development from the concerns of all his previous work."
(Alan Strachan, BBC's Meridian, 9 September 1986)

"I was interested to see that one or two of the reviews of Woman In Mind mention Alan in terms of being our leading feminist playwright as if this was some new discovery. Not at all. Again, going right back to the early plays - even the lightweight ones - there’s always been, I think, the tendency in his work to be not totally unsympathetic to men - he isn’t - I think he understands their foibles, but women I think he portrays with uncanny skill. He understands their frustrations, he’s particularly good at picturing women who are saddled with rather insensitive men and he’s all always been very beady about what I would describe as male duplicity as well as male complacency. His roles for women had always been very meaty but I don’t think there’s ever been one quite a challenging as the role of Susan in this play, who is - after all - never off the stage for a single second in its entire length, which is a hugely demanding role."
(Alan Strachan, BBC's Meridian, 9 September 1986)

"I can't think of other p[lays where an 'ordinary' woman with everyday concerns and responsibilities, i.e. one who's not a queen or a murderer, never leaves the stage… Despite that fact that over the last few years, women themselves have been making theatre which puts women centre stage, Woman in Mind is still unique in that focus."
(Anna Mackmin, Woman In Mind 2022 revival programme)

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.