My Very Own Story: BackgroundAs a subject, My Very Own Story is hindered by the lack of substantive material to discuss the play. Alan Ayckbourn’s plays for young people are frequently ignored or side-lined in publications and this can be seen most substantially with My Very Own Story.
Yet My Very Own Story is a fascinating play which also marks the end of an incredibly productive period of writing for Alan. He began writing for young people in 1988 with Mr A’s Amazing Maze Plays. By the time he wrote My Very Own Story, he had written six 'family' plays in four years.
My Very Own Story develops the themes begun in earlier plays, particularly the previous year’s This Is Where We Came In; this work was notable for its characters rebelling against the stories they told and the storytellers who told them. My Very Own Story shares the same structure with three storytellers telling their stories, except this play further explores the boundaries of performance and playwriting with an apparently simple narrative asking questions about the nature of illusion and reality as characters step in and out of stories to contest the stories being told. The same stories merge into and out of each other, while offering a pastiche of various well-known genres; were this written a few years later, it would have no doubt been dubbed Alan’s first post-modern children’s play. As he has said about the play, this was the point where Alan stopped thinking about limits on what you could write for children.
My Very Own Story perfectly encapsulates his growing philosophy that plays for young people could be just as complex and demanding as those for adults. In fact, in a contemporary interview he begins to stop referring to these plays as pieces for children, but as family plays; plays meant to be seen and enjoyed on different levels by an audience of all ages.
My Very Own Story began its life as a Saturday morning show during the summer of 1991 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round; it was then revived for the Christmas show in 1992. It has been published in an acting edition by Samuel French and as part of the Faber collection Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 2.
It has often been said that Alan in many of his children’s plays re-writes his adult plays. My Very Own Story is probably the first play to reverse that procedure. With its genre pastiches and stories folding in and out of each other, there is a strong argument that My Very Own Story (with a dash of another family play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book) was retold for an adult audience in Alan’s 2005 play Improbable Fiction.
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.