Intimate Exchanges: Frequently Asked Questions

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

Alan Ayckbourn describes Intimate Exchanges as a 'choice' rather than a 'chance' play, but can it be performed randomly on the night?
In theory, yes. However, that is not the playwright's intention. Intimate Exchanges was not conceived as a 'chance' play and never intended to feature random elements. It is a play about exploring the effects decisions - from the smallest to the largest - have on our lives. As a result, the play was written so that the decisions of each performance is made far in advance allowing audiences to know they are able to see how the character's lives are affected by different decisions and always know in advance which variant they are seeing. Thus saying, it is still possible to do it randomly (and has been performed that way at least once), however it presents a huge challenge to stage managers as the plays become so diverse in location and appearance by the fourth scene, plus a means of making the many choices random has to be devised. As is always the case with questions of this nature, whilst it may be possible to do so, the really question is, why would you want to alter the playwright's original intentions for the play?

Can it be performed with more than two actors?
To continue the point just made, in theory, yes, but why would you change such an internal part of Intimate Exchange's structure and appeal? The play was written for two actors to play 10 different characters and much of the joy is seeing how this is cleverly managed - particularly in such scenes as The Pageant where the same actress has a fight with herself! Of course, it could be done with 10 actors, but given that there are only two actors at most on stage at any one time, it defeats the purpose. Intimate Exchanges is a showcase for actors and acting.

Does Intimate Exchanges have to be performed in its entirety or can individual variants be presented?
Whilst it would be nice to think that Intimate Exchanges would only be presented as written with all eight major variations, this isn't realistically possible for the majority of companies / productions; indeed it has only been performed twice since 1982 in its complete form. It is quite common and acceptable to do one or several variations. The most common format is two or four variations; this at least captures the spirit of the piece offering audiences the chance to see how some of the decisions can play out. It should be noted that if Intimate Exchanges is produced this way, it should always be advertised it is not the complete play and which of the major variations are being performed.

Is Intimate Exchanges one of the Pendon plays and set in Alan Ayckbourn's fictional town of Pendon?
It is one of the Pendon plays, although it is set near rather than in Pendon. The play acknowledges other Pendon locations, plays and characters and Alan Ayckbourn has said that Bilbury Lodge school is on the outskirts of Pendon. It's worth noting that Intimate Exchanges also makes the case that Woman In Mind is a Pendon play as it makes reference to Doctor Bill Windsor, who later appears in Woman In Mind.

I'm looking for a DVD / Blu-ray of the film adaptation of Intimate Exchanges - Smoking No Smoking - with English sub-titles. Is this available?
Sadly, no. Smoking / No Smoking has never had a commercial release on DVD / Blu-ray in the UK and the only imported versions available do not include sub-titles. The best version is the French 3-disc DVD set which includes an Omnibus documentary about Alan Ayckbourn (ironically, this is in English but the film is not). Please note, several websites advertise this DVD set and the Italian DVD release as having English sub-titles; neither have English sub-titles and nor has there ever been a commercial release in any country with English subtitles. If you are looking for the French DVD set, it can be found on Amazon here.

Are there plans to release Smoking / No Smoking in the UK with English sub-titles?
Alan Ayckbourn is not aware of any plans to release Smoking / No Smoking in the UK in the foreseeable future.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.

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