Comic Potential: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Comic Potential. If you have a question about this or any other of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, you can contact the website via the Contact Us page.

The play is written to have 10 actors plays 20 roles, can I use more actors?
There's no reason why not in this case. The doubling (occasionally tripling of roles) was a device by the playwright to allow a far larger cast of characters. If you have more actors available, then there is no reason why all 20 roles can't be individually cast; although be aware some of the 'doubling' roles are literally no more than a walk-on part.

I've read that the playwright considers Comic Potential can be read as having a dark climax, is this true?
Indeed, although it's a hypothetical answer depending on how you want to interpret the end of the play. As the playwright notes, Comic Potential ends with Jacie being given power and influence - which she immediately exerts by over-ruling over her 'benefactor' Adam. As Alan Ayckbourn notes, this is the first step towards letting a superior species into a position where humans could become obsolete very quickly.

Was Comic Potential specifically written for the actress Janie Dee?
This is slightly contentious as anyone who saw Janie Dee in the original role will know that it feels as though it was written specifically for her many talents. However, the playwright has always denied he has written roles for specific actors because a) you might not be able to get them for the play and b) there is no future life for a play if it is created so specifically to one person. Additionally, as Alan's biographer Paul Allen has noted, Alan was not aware of the full scale of Janie's voice talents until she began rehearsal for the play. The 'right' answer is that Alan probably wrote the role of Jacie with Janie in mind, but not specifically for her.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.