Comic Potential: Quotes by Other People

This page includes quotes about the play Comic Potential by people other than Alan Ayckbourn, predominantly drawn from books and articles about Alan Ayckbourn or British theatre; it does not include quotes from reviews, which can be found in the Reviews pages.

"Chandler's final line, before he goes off in search of another drink is: 'Who cares if it's an actoid or a person or a performing parrot? If it makes you laugh, treasure it. Tragedy? You can get that in the street being run over.' This is Chandler's statement, not Ayckbourn's, and of course it is art, rather than unadorned death or disaster, that defines tragedy. But so much of the play is framed within the exposition of how comedy is made that Comic Potential can be identified as a play which as as personal to the author (in a completely different way) as Woman In Mind or A Chorus Of Disapproval, the first of which at least is a tragedy, albeit a very funny one. For some people there will never be quite the same psychological truth (and therefore emotional force) to a play set in an imagined future with a robot among the protagonists. The challenge of playing Janie, therefore, is to convince us of her human and mechanical natures alike."
(Paul Allen: A Pocket Guide to Alan Ayckbourn’s Plays, 2004, Faber)

"Ayckbourn starts with an intriguing premise: a future in which comedy is dead, technology has completely taken over and daytime TV soaps are filled with programmable, android performers. Into the nightmare world of a regional TV station, where a one time comic legend is directing these robotic actoids, steps an aspiring young writer, Adam Trainsmith. He is in awe both of the director and of the Hollywood comic tradition; and, when he detects a sudden spark of humour in a female actoid, he starts to fall in love with her.
Already it is clear - and this is only the half of it - that Ayckbourn is writing several plays at once. For a start there is a satire on the world of television: a place where actors are androids, where original ideas go through a Kafkaesque development process and where accountants sinisterly rule. He creates a memorable villain in the regional TV boss played by Jacqueline King as a mixture of Cruella de Ville, Lucretia Borgia and Birt in skirts.
But this is also a play about the death of comedy. It is almost as if Ayckbourn himself, fearful of the new sobriety, is transmitting his distilled comic wisdom while there is still time.
The third play on offer is a primal love story. This is much the weirdest and most successful of the interlocking ideas, in that it taps into Ayckbourn's instinctive feminism and gift for farce. Some might jib at the word feminist: after all, Adam humanises the android, known as Jacie Triplethree, and teaches her to read with the help of Genesis. But she not only turns into a rebellious Eve; she is also far wittier, stronger and more resourceful than her patriarchal instructor."
(Michael Billington, The Guardian, 6 June 1998)

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.