Virtual Reality: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

"It’s a comedy, but quite a sad one. It was my attempt to write a cautionary tale that we could, if we’re not careful, lose touch with one another and be completely swamped by technology....
"[Regarding one of the inspirations for the play being a couple at a restaurant constantly on their mobiles] It was an interesting symptom of our times. They were with each other but they were talking to other people. We're all becoming victims of electronic communication....
"The Hubys are the family who never sit down for a meal and say 'How was your day?'. Actually, I read somewhere that dining rooms are out of fashion now, because people don't use them anymore."
(Artscene, January 2000)

"There were two young couples sitting at the table next to us, and all four of them were on their mobile phones. You could hear them saying to someone 'I'm with Tom, he's here now' and I just thought 'it's a curious way to have a meal, why don't you talk to each other?'....
"In most people's lifetimes the fax and e-mail have become incredibly familiar to us. The miracle of electronic communications - e-mail, fax, video links - all these are a great help in contacting each other. It's very, very exciting. But hold hard, let's not get completely drunk on science. Let's remember we're supposed to have a spiritual side as well. Isn't there a real danger that we'll end up talking to people through screens rather than having a chat face to face? I'm not sure I want to call in to a 'chat room' with someone I'm not sure what age, sex or nationality they are to discuss the future of humanity. I like to know who I'm talking to....
"I often write about suburban people - ordinary people like Mr and Mrs Brown who live in 42 Acacia Avenue, because that's me. But this is urban: these are London swingers, people working at the top end - designers, TV presenters, Sunday magazine sort of people - in that high-flying world where with one step you can fall off and miss out on the high life forever. There is an excitement but also an appalling artificiality about it [this lifestyle].
"It's [the play] about how very often with the modern pressures of life we tend to bury our emotions."
(Unknown publication, 28 January 2000)

"[Regarding the age difference between Alex and Cassie] We have to remember that married men, particularly someone 17 years her senior, have an established way of behaving. By 45, we know what we like, we enjoy certain paintings and certain pieces of furniture. Project this man into a young woman's flat which is filled posters and cheap trappings and he will instinctively want to rebuild the nest to suit his tastes. There's nothing sinister about it, he just wants to make it nice for her, but without consultation because, of course, he assumes that his tastes count."
(Oxford Times, 11 February 2000)

"The most significant and sudden change in our society is the advent of the mobile phone, the fax machine, the e-mail. Communication has been made increasingly simple, but what has it done to our lives? Everybody seems to talk on the mobile phone all the time, and mostly telling other people where they are, especially on trains. Of course, it's great to work at home, with the screen linked to a telephone line. But that also makes you a person who never talks to people except on the screen or on a mobile phone. The home is no longer the centre of life. Our society is splintering. In our new urban culture fewer people are going to the cinema or the theatre. Restaurants have become the new entertainment centres where everyone wants to go. But when people go to restaurants they don't really talk to each other. Not long ago I was in a restaurant near two young couples. They were all on mobile phones, talking to other people, and they were all saying "I'm with John" or "I'm with Mary". They stayed on the phone for most of the meal. Today, families talk much less to each other, partly because there's so much pressure to spend more and more time working. The telly dominates the home, and today mum and dad and the kids rarely sit down for the family meal. My plays always used to have a meal at one point. Not so much now, because not so many meals take place, except for rather pretentious dinner parties….
"In today's sound-bite culture, education is pared down to what is strictly necessary. The e-mail generation feel they don't need to know very much because it's all on the computer. They don't need to learn about Edward II because you just do Edward But when the mind no longer becomes the processor of information, you don't have any creative thought. Any creative work is a result of disconnected ideas often banging together and creating a third idea: We are not going to be the most intelligent beings on the planet very much longer; soon we will have a machine that can out-think us. This is a sleeping time-bomb problem. The two qualities that make us unique as human beings are the ability to love each other and the ability to laugh. We need to look at our common humanity, what separates us from a machine."
(Sunday Times, 30 July 2000)

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