Surprises: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Surprises. If you have a question about this or any other of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, you can contact the website via the Contact Us page.

The play features 13 characters with a company of six. Do the roles have to be doubled?
No. Theoretically, it could be performed with a company of up to 13 actors. The doubling up of the original production was as a result of limitations placed upon Alan Ayckbourn at the time of writing by the producing theatre.

With regard to the time travel element of the play, surely it's paradoxical. By changing time after Titus's first visit, wouldn't that mean that his visit never took place?
A problem with many time travel stories is the paradoxical elements - epitomised by the Grandfather Paradox: if someone goes back in time and kills their grandfather, they prevent the existence of their parents and, thus, their own existence. If they are never born, they never go back in time to kill their grandfather. However, the paradox can be resolved if the moment of change (Grace telling Tim not to accept her father's offer) created an alternative timeline - known as the Parallel Universe theory - which branches away at that point. Henceforth, the original events (where Tim leaves Grace and becomes successful) still occurs in a parallel universe / alternate timeline with the events we witness (Tim stays with Grace and refuses her father's offer) taking place in another parallel universe / alternate timeline. This theory is the most plausible and is similar to the theory of time travel used in the movie Back To The Future.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.

The Surprises section of the website is dedicated to Lizzie Glazier for
her work at the Stephen Joseph Theatre & her friendship.