Comic Potential A Play

Alan Ayckbourn

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

96 Pages


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A sci-fi comedy-thriller, Comic Potential is set in a TV studio in the near future, where a director—an alcoholic has-been—and his assistants are making a daytime soap opera of the usual appalling sort. The difference is that they are using actoids—robots programmed to act—and there are no scriptwriters. Into this situation comes the idealistic Adam, nephew of the millionaire station owner, who wants to write comedy of the quality that Chaplin and Keaton once embodied. But when Adam falls in love with Jaycee Triplethree (JC333), one of the actoids on the show, everything is turned upside down as she grows more human and the line between actoid and human narrows further. When Jaycee finally cries out in anguish that she can't say anything she hasn't been programmed to say, Adam points out that no one ever says anything original anyway.

Comic Potential is a comedy set in the foreseeable future when everything has changed except human nature.

Alan Ayckbourn's fifty-third full-length play was presented at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 1998 and received its West End premiere at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, in October 1999.


Praise for Comic Potential

'As with all Ayckbourn's best plays you are watching a comedy-farce and suddenly find that tragedy comes out of the woodwork and grins at you . . . Like all serious comedies, Comic Potential hurts you with the sheer exuberance of its laughter and liberates you with its seriousness . . . The master of Scarborough is still on top form."—The Sunday Times

"He is a profoundly moral writer and . . . has reached a new synthesis between the comic and the serious—the painfully funny . . . We are a fortunate age to have had our own Molière."—Sir Peter Hall

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Alan Ayckbourn

  • Born in London in 1939, Alan Ayckbourn spent most of his childhood in Sussex and was educated at Haileybury. Leaving there one Friday at the age of seventeen, he went into the theatre the following Monday and has been working in it ever since as, variously, a stage manager, sound technician, scene painter, prop-maker, actor, writer and director. These last two talents he developed thanks to his mentor, Stephen Joseph, whom he first met in 1958 upon joining his newly formed Studio Theatre Company in Scarborough. A BBC Radio Drama Producer from 1965 to 1970, upon the death of Stephen Joseph, he returned to Scarborough to become the company's Artistic Director. He holds the post to this day, though the theatre is now named after its founder. He is the author of over fifty plays, most of which received their first performance at this Yorkshire theatre, were he spends the greater part of the year directing other people's work. More than half of his plays have subsequently been produced in the West End, at the Royal National Theatre or at the Royal Shakespeare Company. They have been translated into over thirty languages, are seen on stage and television throughout the world, and have received many national and international awards. Alan Ayckbourn was appointed a CBE in 1987 and in 1997 became to first playwright knighted since Terence Rattigan. He lives in London.

  • Alan Ayckbourn