Taking Steps: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Taking Steps. 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.

Was Taking Steps specifically written for in-the-round performance?
Yes, it's the only play Alan Ayckbourn has written that he feels is specifically written and designed for in-the-round performance. The conceit of the play - three floors of a house overlaid on each other on a single space - only works if the audience is able to see the entire floor of the performance space. If you can't see the floor, not only is it difficult to appreciate what is happening in the play, but you're also losing Alan Ayckbourn's intention and the visual humour from the juxtapositions of the characters on different floors.

Can Taking Steps be performed in the proscenium arch / end-stage?
Taking Steps has been performed end-on with various degrees of success and it largely depends on the type of space available. The original London production was staged in a traditional proscenium arch space where the vast majority of the audience could not see the stage floor. As a result, most of the original intent and humour of the play was lost (it is essential the audience be able to see the stage floor in its entirety and appreciate how the entire house is laid out over one space). Generally speaking, the play is not suitable for proscenium arch spaces.
However, end-stage or traverse spaces which have a performance area level with the front row or set slightly down should be able to accommodate the play with little problem (although depending on the level of the stage, it may be necessary to remove the front row to ensure the audience can see the stage floor in its entirety). Essentially - for the play to work - every member of the audience has to be able to see the entire floor (which acts as the backcloth of the play), if a performance space allows for that, the play can be staged as intended.

What is the poem Mark is quoting from in the play when he says: "England, we love thee better than we know…”?
This is the beginning of a poem entitled
Gibraltar from The Story of Justin Martyr (1835) by Richard Chevenix Trench and taken from the Oxford Book of Regency Verse (Clarendon, 1928).

Is Taking Steps really Alan Ayckbourn's only farce?
That depends on who you ask. In Alan Ayckbourn's view, it is the only full-length true farce in his play canon (there are several short farces such as the
Farcicals which are not considered part of the full-length play canon). A strong case can be made that The Square Cat (1959), Love After All (1959) and How The Other Half Loves (1969) are also farces and all have substantive traditional farce elements. However, it does depend on what constitutes a farce according to individual tastes and opinions: many critics have held that most of Alan's earlier play canon from Relatively Speaking through to The Norman Conquests are farces and that his play canon frequently dips into farce. The playwright would disagree strongly with this but acknowledges the constant desire by critics, academics and writers for labels. Alan stopped labelling his plays at about the time of Taking Steps and now just considers them as 'plays'.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.