by Alan Ayckbourn
Set in England in the 1970s, Confusions is a play made up of four self-contained acts. You may recognise familiar quirks in some or all of the characters while the dialogue sparkles, as you would expect for an Ayckbourn. If you like surprises then you’ll love Confusions. In Confusions nothing is as it first appears, each situation has a twist. The characters are illuminating and their conversations enable us to see situations that will make us cringe and laugh at the same time. The different scenes may give you food for thought but they’ll certainly make you laugh!
A great evening’s entertainment!
Confusions capped a year of great success for Alan Ayckbourn. It was written in the autumn of 1974, the year in which The Norman Conquests trilogy opened in London to great acclaim, joining Absurd Person Singular which had opened the previous year to similar plaudits. In Scarborough, Alan had premiered Absent Friends, an important transition play for the writer and to top it all, he wrote Confusions, a collection of five loosely linked, one-act plays developed out of a necessity to produce a new Ayckbourn play to launch both a winter season and a small touring programme. It had been decided to expand the Scarborough company’s work, which had been reduced to just a summer season since Stephen Joseph’s death in 1967, and to try and keep the acting company together. However, the company did not have a permanent home for the winter as Scarborough Public Library, home of the Library Theatre, was unavailable – a clear sign of the growing desire of the Library management for the theatre company to move elsewhere.
What was proposed was an evening of entertainment suitable for the existing company of three men and two women that was flexible enough to tour. Alan’s solution was to create an evening of five one-act plays.
The play opened in the winter of 1974 and began a local tour that has become the stuff of legend within the Scarborough company. On Tuesdays, the play would visit Filey to be performed in the round; on Wednesdays and Thursdays it would visit Whitby to be performed in the proscenium arch. On Fridays and Saturdays, the company would return to Scarborough and perform it in the Library, three-sided! The tour was a success though and Confusions was revived in 1975 as part of the Library Theatre’s summer season.
Confusions transferred to the Apollo Theatre in London in 1976. It featured John Alderton and Pauline Collins and received some very positive reviews – although the Evening Standard’s then influential critic Milton Shulman was insistent that A Talk In The Park should not end the play, somehow entirely missing the point of the final play and Alan’s desire to end on a dying fall.
Since then, Confusions has become a popular part of the Ayckbourn canon, particularly with amateur dramatic societies and student groups. The plays are often performed singularly or in pairs. It has even become a set text for GCSE level examinations and as a result has probably been reprinted in various volumes more times than any other Ayckbourn play.