Wildest Dreams: Character Notes by Alan Ayckbourn

Alan Ayckbourn rarely writes notes or backgrounds to his characters believing all the information needed to play the character is contained with the play text. However, in correspondence he has written about the characters of Wildest Dreams, which are reprinted here.

The Characters

Stanley is suburban and ineffectual. Physically unimpressive. An opter-outer of awkward or tense situations. Very worthy, very well meaning and infuriating to live with. Always ready whenever possible to see the other chap's point of view and willing to choose any course of action which will avoid trouble.

Neurotic - a manic depressive. Physically unremarkable and again incredibly ordinary and suburban. Her greatest dread is growing old and here is a woman who is growing old badly.

Awkward, socially, physically, any-which-way. Intensely private and withdrawn (who can blame her). Initially I saw her as a small woman. But I don't think size is a problem just so long as she has, beneath her gruff exterior, a certain vulnerability.

One of those spotty unprepossessing boffins who live inside computers. A lonely misfit of a boy with few friends (either male or female). American films are full of them.

Four failures, but failures that we want to win through eventually. They're all victims. Underdogs of one sort or another.

She has to contrast with this unhappy four very sharply. One of those (apparent) golden people - instantly attractive - life seems to be designed specially for her (well, most of the time). She loves order. She's obsessively clean. Obsessively neat. It's background, I think. Those young golden girls who seem to have charmed lives. Yet she's very opaque as a personality. What is she really? Is she lying? Is she telling the truth? Is she, in some way, as much of a fantasiser as the other four? Only, in her case, does she act it out in real life instead of in board games?
There is a considerable destructive side to her. Her relationships with others are fatally flawed by a complete misunderstanding. An innate insensitivity. With no appreciation for other people's feelings - especially towards her. Coupled with an irresistible desire to 'make people over'. I used the analogy once that she's the fluffy kitten at the side of the road that you pick up out of pity only to discover you're holding a black widow spider.

I think he is a case in point. I suspect Marcie said something - or did something - supremely tactless to a man who has little sense of humour about himself and has a short fuse to violence. A living example of how Marcie fails to relate cause and result - even when she is the cause.

A frail and feeble woman - but of some considerable physical dimensions.

A dreadful man who wears a Christian League badge in his lapel and is the intellectual equivalent of Larry in every way, i.e. an intellectual sadist and a bully. And a dirty old man, to boot. He should always look a likely candidate for a stroke or a heart attack.

These latter three are the nightmare characters. Together they embody Balaac.

General thoughts on the characters

The play is about escaping from reality. The need to. Realities that we can't face. All the characters have demons in their lives. Or several. For Warren it's his mother, of course. And a somewhat confused state of late puberty. Rick is thoroughly traumatised by past events and uncertain, guilty sexual feelings. And as for Stanley and Hazel. There's Austin, of course, forever haunting their lives. And the threat of age. And for Stanley, a sense of failure, professional, personal and sexual. A lot of the play is down to sex. So what's new?

So they all invent a new demon. A safe, confinable demon within a board game. One they can handle and put away safely in a box.

Marcie is the catalyst. She explodes their dream world and forces them all, momentarily, into harsh reality. But they soon escape back to their safe haven. Only this time deeper, far deeper than ever before. And this time, one suspects, with a demon invented to replace Marcie who now, in different ways, threatens them all.

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