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These notes are to provide more background information to the play
than we are able to fit in the paper programme
Welcome to the Rushen Players’ production
of Comic Potential by Alan Ayckbourn.
Here are a few thoughts from our director, Sarah Lockyer.
The play was Ayckbourn's second exploration into science fiction, the first being Henceforward. This play originated from the idea that the ability to laugh and the ability to fall in love are both characteristics that differentiate humans from androids, as both are illogical from an objective viewpoint, thus raising the question as to whether either of the actions in an android would be considered a malfunction. The comedy also explores the Pygmalion syndrome and competing desires for autonomy and certainty.
Idealistic young writer Adam Trainsmith meets Chandler Tate, a former director of classic comedies, who makes a living by directing a never-ending soap opera. The leading-role android makes a series of mistakes. Supporting role android JC-F31-333, spots his lapses and laughs. Later on, while Adam is watching old slapstick comedy, JC-F31-333 laughs again. She is afraid that the sense of humour is a production fault. Adam sees it as an advantage. He nicknames his favourite android Jacie and persuades Chandler that they should make a comedy for her. Regional TV director Carla Pepperbloom threatens to ruin the project. She is jealous of Adam's sympathy for talented Jacie and orders the android's memory wiped. Adam panics and decides to kidnap Jacie. While on the escape, Adam and Jacie fall in love.
Comic Potential is Ayckbourn's fifty-third full-length play. It was first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1998 and received its West End premiere at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue in October 1999. Chandler Tate was played by David Soul, and Jacie by Janie Dee, who had created the role in Scarborough. Janie's performance won her the Best Actress category of the London Critics' Circle Theatre Awards (1999), the Evening Standard Awards (1999) and the Laurence Olivier Awards (2000).
Comic Potential is set in the near future—but as it was written in the 1990’s, it is interesting to see what has happened since, especially in terms of Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the film and television industry, not to mention our everyday lives. The playwright did not, however, anticipate certain aspects of the ‘future’, in particular the mobile phone and the internet, so we see characters using a telephone directory instead of Googling! This production, therefore, gives a nod to the time the play was written as well as exploring its futuristic aspects.