Bedroom Farce: Character Notes by Alan Ayckbourn

Alan Ayckbourn rarely makes detailed notes about the characters in his plays, not least because he believes all the pertinent details can be found in the play itself. However, the Ayckbourn Archive contains some correspondence regarding the characters of Bedroom Farce, which offer Alan’s own insight into the characters as he was writing the play.

Trevor: At first sight he would appear rather a stupid man and I suppose he isn’t gifted with the greatest intelligence. His mind is very one-tracked, generally concerned with something that no-one in the rest of the room is. He assumes, more so than most of us, that the world was created as a challenge for him personally. And that the rest of mankind are there, all like celestial walk-ons, cast purely to test and generally thwart him. He is, of course, supremely selfish.
A lot of his good points we have to take on trust. He’s apparently best in a one-to-one situation, which we don’t often see him in. Preferably with a woman who tends to see the funny side of him (not Susannah, of course!). He drives men to distraction.

Trevor is based on an actor who once came round to talk to my wife and me about his problems. He talked for several hours until the small hours. My wife went up to bed and left us together. Finally I went to bed as well. He followed me into the bedroom and sat on the end of our bed, still talking. We both went to bed. My wife turned her light out and dozed. He talked on. Finally, I bade him goodnight and turned my own light off. I fell asleep. When we woke he had gone. But I couldn't put that in a play, no one would believe it.

Trevor is a tip. The world's worst turned out man.

Susannah: I suppose the main thing about them both [Trevor & Susannah) is that they're totally self obsessed. They honestly believe their situation is unique and of all consuming interest to other people.... Susannah always reminds me of a nervous giraffe. Neurotic, too, of course. Attractive. But totally lacking in any self-confidence. The sort of woman who talks for hours in pubs and tears up beer mats.

Jan: You must bear in mind Jan's background and the fact that at one stage she did have a relationship (God help her) with Trevor. From the clues in their bedroom scene it would appear theirs has been a very physical relationship. I think the sex was very successful and probably explains Trevor's dissatisfaction, having moved on to Susannah. I think Jan is more or less happy with Nick sexually, but has probably traded in a few of the fireworks she experienced with Trevor for the sake of a quieter life.
Certainly she has no wish to reinstate her relationship with Trevor - she's too canny for that - but as is often the case with former lovers, she has a lingering fascination for him. I think her visit to Kate and Malcolm's party was precisely that, to revisit the scene of the crime. And hopefully to prove herself immune and totally 'cured' of Trevor. A dangerous game to play, always. The fact that she momentarily succumbs will haunt and infuriate her for days.

As to her relationship with Nick. Well we do see him at his very worse, poor man, an appalling patient. Theirs is one of those point scoring relationships which started as a game probably - a sort of sexual badinage of put downs and gentle insults which originally brought them together - and may well continue as that. At worse, though the play never extends this far, it will become entirely negative and increasingly destructive. But I think Jan got what she wanted in her relationship with Nick, a marriage of equal, similarly matched minds.
The way you survive with Nick, Jan has decided, is to develop immunity from his barbs and, even if they do occasionally hit home, never admit they do. That particular night in
Bedroom Farce it is a very good one for Jan. She not only ducks most of Nick's sulky bile but actually scores heavily in return. He won't forgive her for that in a hurry.

Malcolm: He's an alpha male artisan. I always think of him as a TV camera or sound man or possibly an electrician / rigger. Sort of fairly artistic but really prefers working with his hands. His relationship with Kate is very straight up and down. He's one of those blokes whose always happiest In the pub with his mates, rather than sitting at home with the wife. One of those relationships that works out quite well in the end because she's generally happiest when with her girl friends, too. One of those lower middle-upper working relationships when the men and the women both feel they have their clearcut roles to play. Yes, he reads his porn mags and hides them from her under his socks but she knows he does and doesn't really object. That, after all, is just something that men do. His is an ego that continually needs propping up and she is happy to provide that support. He performs all the bloke-ish tasks round the place, putting up shelves and generally building the home round the little woman. She is perfectly happy to play second fiddle for most of the time. On the rare occasion she questions his decision and insists that Trevor stays, it is an exceptional moment.

So think butch, think fairly male mono channel thinking with a view of women in general as an alien species. Not exactly inferior but who, in his view, have their brains wired slightly differently.

And you have Malcolm.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission of Alan Ayckbourn.

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