Advocates: Richard Briers (1934 - 2013)

Richard Briers CBE was one of the actors most associated with Alan Ayckbourn during his early West End successes, playing Greg in Relatively Speaking and Colin in Absent Friends as well as appearing as Reg in the television adaptation of The Norman Conquests. His career spanned stage and screen and he was well-known for his role In The Good Life and Ever Decreasing Circles. He would later work extensively with Kenneth Branagh and appear in several of his Shakespeare film adaptations as well as his stage productions.


"Alan was then still a BBC Radio producer in Leeds, writing plays in his spare time and I remember this very shy man taking me around his studio where we were on tour and showing me all the different things you could do with sound effects."

"Alan's curiously difficult to act: very economic, very disciplined, never a word too many so you have to play him as tightly as he writes…. He also goes in for very abrupt changes of mood, and the gear shifts are like the ones in a racing car - you have to listen very carefully even to recognise them."

"Alan's also a great sleuth, you know; he watches you all the time, like a detective. I have a nasty feeling there'll be a pompous, boring actor in a script of his any day now."

"It all comes from the character which he has seen so clearly, because Alan has this extraordinary insight into people. He’s very shrewd and very quick about summing up people’s weaknesses and faults and the nice things about them. I suppose my favourite part, when he started to write with a little more depth and more darkness in his work, was
Absurd Person Singular, which I think in many ways is his best play - certainly his most entertaining play - but also it has a great deal to say. I played an awful property developer, a real climber, a very ambitious man who treats his wife very badly; that strikes a chord in many, many thousands of households. That was marvellous and each act in Absurd Person Singular is like a one act play, I always felt. The first act is farcical. The second act is, I suppose, the funniest act ever written in the history of comedy - the second act is appalling but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud so much just reading the act, let alone before I saw it acted - and the third act is mildly Chekhovian. So you had all these with the sadness crept into the third act with the bank manager and his second wife, who has become an alcoholic because she’s bored to death by him and all these things. There’s so much rich content to it. It was a very rich play to do."

"I think he’ll be remembered as a very important writer. A social writer, he will be a person almost like a historic document of people’s feelings and emotions of a certain class, particularly Middle Class and Lower Middle Class. He will be remembered, certainly, as the least obscure of our important writers, which I think is invaluable. Alan I think is brilliant, but you can also actually understand his story which is so nice especially with people of limited intelligence like myself! It’s rather nice to be entertained and also see yourself in the plays - he just holds a mirror up to nature like all important writers always have done."

"He provides an extraordinary insight into human frailty. Chekhov did it in his age; Ayckbourn has done it for us."

"He became this extraordinary writer. I don't know how he does it. I am sure he is a genius. He quite frightens me because he has such an incredible mind. I think he has two brains to my one."
Copyright: Richard Briers. All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd, please credit this website if reproduced.