The Champion Of Paribanou: Quotes by Alan Ayckbourn

"My grateful thanks to the Arabian Nights, George Lucas, Isaac Asimov, R L Stevenson, my own wild imaginings and all the fantastic movies I ever saw as a child."
(Alan Ayckbourn quoted in the original Stephen Joseph Theatre press release for the premiere of The Champion Of Paribanou)

"My idea for a Christmas piece came from the theatre's own party last year. I am not very sociable and never join in the dancing so I ended up looking at some fairy story books that my partner Heather got in one of those grab bags. I started out with an idea from
Arabian Nights and the Magic Carpet story but it developed into something like Mad Max meets Scheherazade. It's a bit weird but the kids will like it. This will be sci-fi fantasy with none of the pointy ears."
(Northern Echo, 1 May 1996)

"Since opening the theatre [the company moved venues to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1996] was such a huge, massive drain on my energy. I thought the next real new play would be the children's show at Christmas. The idea for it actually happened at the last Christmas party. We had a grab bag where people give each other presents. My partner Heather got some rather nice fairy story books, which I sat reading for the evening while everyone else danced!
"One was
The Magic Carpet, one of the Tales of the Arabian Nights and I'd never heard it. It was extraordinary - although there isn't much of the magic carpet, I decided to use it as a very loose basis for a setting and story....
"It is inspired by it, but I've started to move it into a world that's not as precise as that of the
Arabian Nights, that could be the very distant future - so there'll be technology. It will be an exciting adventure story for the young and old. I would love to capture adult imaginations. I'm really looking to restore adults' faith in the theatre if they've lost it and get young people very excited by theatre. I hope it will be a Christmas show to remember. I'm very excited and dying to write it."
(Scarborough Evening News, August 1996)

"It's one of those take it as you like stories; more science fantasy than science fact.... Writing family shows allows you a great deal of freedom. You can take your audience on much more extravagant journeys. I've been trying to do it with adults. I've been moving away from totally naturalistic plays."
(Yorkshire Post, 19 November 1996)

"You can write at an adult level, at worst, with a sort of series of double entendres and sort of innuendoes which adults pick up and laugh at, but which leave the kids completely baffled - which I thInk is both unfair and in the end unsatisfying. Or you write the other way, you write children type jokes and things which the kids will rock around with but the adults will go, ‘oh dear, I hope this isn’t going to go on for too much longer.’
"In the middle of it - again I’ve fallen back on the old trusted device that theatre always needs - is narrative. Grab a strong plot which, whether you’re five years old or fifty-five years old, you think, ‘I want to know what happens to these two, I want to know what happens to her or him. That I think is the secret of writing plays for children and adults."
(Meridian, 6 December 1996)

"I think I write from the adult's perspective. I don’t try to become a child. I try and imagine what I as a child would have enjoyed and what my children would have enjoyed. I think initially I did write consciously for children but I hardly do that now, providing I feel the theme is right for them. I obviously make certain adjustments. I don't write things that I think would not interest them, like sexual politics - particularly for the young ones, you know, that's just baffling. On the whole, I've discovered that children have the same needs from theatre as adults. You just have to be careful how you deal with them. They like to be frightened; they like to be excited, they don't just want to laugh, any more than adults just want to laugh. I think these days I write entirely from my own perspective but just bring out the child in me - it's difficult to explain. The worst thing I could do, which I'm very afraid of, would be to patronise children.... lower myself to them. I think that it is better to write above them than below them, so that they have to reach a little. I think they will do that."
(Personal correspondence, 1999)

"Some of my stuff is quite scary,
The Champion Of Paribanou is a frightening piece about evil and death and things. But we know children like that, they are into the world of Roald Dahl and the dark and the sinister."
(Personal correspondence, 1999)

"My plays are moral in the sense that generally speaking people get what they deserve and behaviour is in some way rewarded or punished though it's not as simple as that.
The Champion Of Paribanou is the classic where the girl can choose the right way or the wrong way and she chooses the wrong way so she and the boy begin to separate and drift away from one another. In the play, she apparently makes a pact with the devil or death. In reality, it's to do with the choices we make. Most of my characters have free choice or apparently have free choice. Indeed, in most classic plays this is the case. In all the great tragedies, there are the heroes who have to choose to do this or to do that. And some weakness in them, some greed, some thing causes them to make the wrong choice and they're set on a path of self-destruction. But there's nearly always a sense in the play that they had that moment of choice. Things that happen to people not of their own volition are less interesting for me. I need them to have that moment so I suppose in that sense they are moral. Yes, there are horrendous situations where you have no choice but for most of us, most of the time in our lives, we know what is right but then we choose not to do it. Those are the instances that interest me."
(Personal correspondence, 1999)

"It looks at the choices we make as individuals on a fairly serious level and is an interesting family show."
(Scarborough Evening News, 8 December 2005)

"It was a Christmas a year before [the premiere in 1996] and I received a grab-bag, anonymous present of booklets including
The Magic Carpet from The Arabian Nights. I thought it would make a great Christmas show. I moved a long way away from the original, with something much darker, but it does still have an exotic Arabian feel....
"I've tried to write it on several levels, with a strong narrative, the key to all plays, so the audience will think, 'I'm not leaving till I know Murganah dies'. Some pantomimes go over children's heads with innuendo, but kids are more serious about the danger to Prince Ahmed and I don't write down to them....
"I spent a lot of my childhood in the cinema, long before television and DVDs. Back then, in the late fifties, every town had three cinemas and my brother and I went all the time. Of course there was a lot of rubbish but also these great exotic stories, like
The Crimson Pirate, with swashbuckling and the feeling of reckless heroes. In this show the references are all mixed up, like Star Wars, a cross-reference that the children certainly know....
"It's a semi-serious variation on the
Faust legend which slowly leads to bad but it doesn't say 'Thou shalt not...' more what will happen if you betray yourself. You can't preach but you can give a sense of fairness and justice."
(Dig Yorkshire, December 2005)

"It is one of my favourites and is a fairly big show in terms of effects and the size of the cast. It was performed in our first year at this site and I thought it deserved another go. It is everything you could wish for in a Christmas show, complete with dark villains and shining heroes."
(Scarborough Evening News, 5 December 2005)

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