Wildest Dreams: Articles by Other AuthorsThis page contains articles on Wildest Dreams by authors other than Alan Ayckbourn. The articles are the copyright of the author and should not be reproduced without permission.
Dreams & Nightmares (by Simon Murgatroyd)
This article was written for Dick & Lottie theatre company's 2016 production of Wildest Dreams at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, of which this website is the patron.
“I was interested in the way so many of us spend a lot of our time finding ways to escape reality. I think we all do. I'm fascinated by role-playing games. Theatre in one sense is an example of this.”
To escape from reality into fantasy is a recurring theme of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays. In a world where real life can be overwhelming, what can be the harm of a little escapism?
Plenty, if Alan Ayckbourn is to be believed.
Wildest Dreams is arguably the culmination of the playwright’s exploration of what happens when we choose to escape our own lives, no matter how innocent those actions may seem to be. Previous to writing Wildest Dreams, the playwright explored this idea to devastating effect in Woman In Mind as well as in its fascinating companion piece Invisible Friends; incidentally both being produced as a double-bill by Dick & Lottie this autumn.
Wildest Dreams questions whether what you dream of having or being can actually be a nightmare and whether getting what you wish for has consequences which may not be actually all you hoped for.
The play is centred around an approximation of a role-playing game (RPG) - at the time of the play being written, the most well-known of these games being Dungeons & Dragons but which subsequently proliferated to a huge degree.
Although a fan of board games, Alan had never played an RPG, but was interested in the idea of people taking on different personas and spending times ‘living’ as inhabitants of a fictional world.
The Game in Wildest Dreams is not based on or inspired by a real game, but is totally the invention of the playwright and was somewhat ahead of its time as the Games Master - the person who runs the games - generates his plots through a computer programme; this actually being prescient of what many people today would most associate RPGs with - computers and consoles.
Wildest Dreams was written in 1991, just after the decade when RPGs began to push their way from being a niche hobby into the mainstream. In doing so, they also generated many nonsensical headlines about being a path to the occult and Satanism right through to encouraging suicide and murder. All of which was later vigorously debunked by various scientific studies.
This controversy though was not what attracted Alan Ayckbourn’s attention. With the popularity of the games growing, he became fascinated about what the broad appeal of the games were. Why did people want to travel to these imaginary worlds and become completely different personalities? And what would happen if someone totally grounded in reality with no imagination entered that world? What effect would it have on those around them?
I won’t spoil the play by answering the question, but it is worth considering that although now 22 years old, Wildest Dreams has become even more pertinent today than it was in 1994.
Since then, not only have RPGs blossomed in popularity covering practically every genre you can imagine from fantasy to science-fiction, horror to romance, but vast numbers of people escape into imaginary worlds, thanks to the something that was yet to become a staple of our lives in the 1990s.
In the past two decades, role-playing games have essentially found their niche in computers and consoles where vast worlds have been digitally created and where millions of people spend their lives every single day.
From games such as The Elder Scrolls and Grand Theft Auto to the vast online massive multi-player online games such as World Of Warcraft, millions of people world-wide are immersed in fantasy worlds.
Dubbed sandbox games because of their increasingly vast, free-roaming worlds, their plots are often secondary to just exploring these worlds and becoming the character you long to be. Carving out your niche in another reality
They seem to offer the chance to live an alternative life without the pressures and stresses of the real world. Is it then any wonder so many of us want to escape into artificial realities?
And if you think this is overstating the case and it’s still the same minority interest it was in 1991, consider that in 2015, World Of Warcraft had 6.5 million active subscribers and many other popular online games have active subscriber bases of more than 1 million people. All that before we consider sales of games such as The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, which sold a mind-boggling 20 million copies world-wide. That’s an awful lot of people escaping into fantasy worlds.
And it will only get bigger. 2016 is the year in which virtual reality finally hits the mainstream and our homes. Everything from the much touted Occulus Rift to Sony’s Playstation VR will become available and, more importantly, affordable. And one of the key markets is seen as the games market. Imagine the possibilities when you come home and instead of watching your avatar on a screen, you put on a headset and become completely immersed in a world which spreads out wherever you look.
And as more and more of us choose to escape reality through these games, it thus becomes even more pertinent to ask, why?
And, in the case of Wildest Dreams, what happens when fantasy eventually become more attractive then reality?
Fantasy or reality. Which would you prefer? Be careful what you wish for….
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.