It Could Be Any One Of Us: Changing The Play

When It Could Be Any One Of Us premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In T^he Round in 1983, there was no murder victim in the play; no-one died. Given the play was billed as a thriller and whodunit, this was - perhaps - a rather glaring omission. Alan Ayckbourn would later rectify this when he revived the play for production in 1996 incorporating what some would argue was a pre-requisite for the play with a dead body. Alan's original reasoning for why he did not originally include a murder can be found in the reproduction of a letter from Alan to his agent, Peggy Ramsay, on 5 November 1984 reprinted below.

"Dear Peggy,

"I do agree with you that this play [
It Could Be Any One Of Us] has problems which is probably why I've hidden it rather shyly on my back shelf.

"Michael [Codron, Alan's West End producer] also suggested what you are suggesting, i.e that the play needs a body. Probably you're right. But that does suggest, if the rules of the thriller are to be strictly observed, that all the suspects could have killed him (i.e are capable of murder).

"Now, it seems to me that in any family, however strange, there might well be one maybe even two members who could, given sufficient provocation, batter there relatives to death. But all of them...? I know that's how it always has to be in thrillers and Christie and Allingham and P.D. James have all carried it off so why shouldn't I? Maybe my view of humanity is sunnier than I realisedl

"On a more serious level, once a murder's been committed the whole course of the play would have to be very different. As things are, the police are very rude and dismissive towards our hero Norris. In fact they don't take the affair very seriously at all. Whereas a murder they might. And whereas Wendy is prepared to help out Jocelyn with a spurious confession in order to satisfy Norris and whereas Norris, in turn, is prepared to overlook Wendy's behaviour, if murder were the issue I feel all their attitudes would be very different. After all few people, least of all Wendy, are going to confess to a murder they didn't commit. Not just to help someone out of an embarrassing moment, anyway.

"Rather I would suggest that we forget calling it a thriller at all. After all, as you say, it isn't one and to make it one would mean throwing away the basic theme which is what really interested me.

"Perhaps I'll give it a glance over at some point and see what I can do with it to make it more satisfactory….

"See you soon I hope. Love, Alan"

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