Man of The Moment: Character Notes by Alan Ayckbourn

Here Alan Ayckbourn offers his thoughts on some of the characters from Man Of The Moment with extracts from interviews and personal correspondence held in the playwright’s archive.

Douglas Beechey
Douglas is probably a practising Christian. Nothing much to do with class, I think. He has a centre to him which springs from an inner certainty about some things. People with a faith seem to have this. He's also pretty hot on turning the other cheek. So is Nerys but that's another story. I don't know if they're churchgoers. I think the use of the word 'exorcise' [in the play] is a Freudian slip of the tongue. He certainly didn't mean it consciously. But it's there for us to pick up. As in all these things it's important that we allow the audience to pick up on them, never for us to be caught telling them.
Douglas has his faults though. He’s weak and unimaginative and is also guilty of rewriting the past.

Vic Parks
I knew I could write Vic Parks and make him very entertaining because there's something fascinatingly awful about this snake-like man. I knew that in a sense violence is like a drug - that if I made him physically very violent he could, dangerously, become even more attractive to the audience. Which was when I thought up his relationship with Sharon - a kind of hidden violence, when he attacks her for being fat. A lot of people found that quite unbearable, but I was interested by how much more shocking it was than if he'd taken a piece of wood to her. I don't like to see people beaten up and there's a sort of fascination with it which shouldn't be there. [1]

[Vic is] a very dangerous and evil man, who at the same time has a sort of certain charm, but in the end is a violent and unpredictable, increasingly drunken man, who, however, through the medium of television, his own personality, and the notoriety achieved by being involved in a bank robbery and a certain articulateness - which is also important - has become a media star and someone of great importance. But even the victims of his violence, seventeen years ago, stand in awe of him, they should hate him, and they don't, they sort of admire him. [2]

I wouldn’t describe him as exactly negative. He’s very pro-active and has, like a lot of people, gradually re-written his past in order to justify his behaviour. He now sees himself far more as a victim than as an aggressor. He is, having said that, still an opinionated, sadistic, manipulative man who when drunk can become very dangerous indeed.

Jill Rillington
She’s a monster, Jill really is... I know 'where she's coming from', as they say, in that she's a media woman in (in this case) the BBC, a huge media structure which is still largely male oriented, and women in those establishments have to fight very very hard to achieve what men achieve far more easily. It's not to say they don't do it, but quite often it creates a certain toughening of the persona, and often only the most aggressive of the women succeed. Jill is based on one that I met; she is almost paranoid, actually. She feels that the whole institution is there to bring her down. She's really, in one sense, the worst type of interviewer as she's imposing her personality on the programme and fails to listen to what people are trying to say. She doesn't listen to Douglas; she's so much part of the Vic Parks world that she's already decided what Douglas is. And I suppose there's something else. The play says: never make prejudgments about people, they will always surprise you, by a degree of sensitivity, of understanding that you didn't think them capable of. One has to be very careful about the contemptuous dismissal of people whom you think you've put into a pigeonhole. Very dangerous. And as for people like Douglas,... I hope by the end of the play (if the play is working right) we, the audience, who laughed when he arrived, really want him to take us with him when he goes, because we no longer want to stay in this place with a man like Vic, who is as violent and dangerous, who has done so much damage to people. He's violent emotionally as I use him in the play... I could have made him do acts of physical violence to people, but I didn't want that, because that sends out all sorts of messages. The violence he uses is towards the baby-sitter, Sharon, who loves him. He uses that love as a terrible weapon against her, and it's the most awful scene he has with her, but I think it says much more than - you know - a single punch on the nose would ever say. [3]

Trudy Parks
She has taken upon herself a lot of the guilt that Vic apparently no longer feels. In marrying him, she feels she is reaping the benefits of an existence that is indirectly a result of Vic’s past actions. She is, she feels, just as responsible. Her fear is that eventually there will come some sort of divine retribution. Possibly that has already arrived in the unlikely form of Douglas. The kiss [with Douglas] is a desperate attempt to deflect such retribution and perhaps even find redemption.

Kenny
Manager was intended to be a description of the type of man he was rather than what he did. There is a new breed of manager over here that are sleek, beautifully dressed and groomed and with the morals of piranha fish. From an uncertain background - probably East End working class, but with barely a trace of an accent and no way now to discern their origins. They're often boxing promoters or snooker managers. Kenny is, I suspect, a deeply dangerous man. It's never stated but there is always a physical threat present in him - especially towards Jill. And most women. Most of the time in the play, he is in the shadow of Vic. He's the unseen power behind the throne. The rest of the time he is a basking shark, restricting himself to a gentle waspish viciousness. He does little to hide his contempt for Douglas - who doesn't notice fortunately. But then people like Vic attract like to like. Ex-cons like Ruy for instance.

All quotes are copyright of Alan Ayckbourn except for:
[1] Duncan Wu,
Six Contemporary Dramatists (interview with Alan Ayckbourn)
[2] Albert-Reiner Glaap,
Ayckbourn Country (interview with Alan Ayckbourn)
[3] Egon Tiedje,
Man Of The Moment: German edition (interview with Alan Ayckbourn)

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission of Alan Ayckbourn.

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