The Square Cat: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's The Square Cat.

Why is The Square Cat attributed to Roland Allen rather than Alan Ayckbourn?
Alan Ayckbourn wrote his first four plays under the pseudonym Roland Allen and the reasons are two-fold. In the case of The Square Cat, it was to reflect the fact he co-wrote the play with his first wife, Christine Roland; the name is an amalgam of Christine's surname (Roland) and Alan's Christian name (Allen). The second reason is that Alan was an established actor with the Library Theatre company in Scarborough by this time and the pseudonym differentiated him as a writer from his established role as an actor.

Why isn't The Square Cat available to be performed? / Why hasn't The Square Cat been published?
Alan Ayckbourn considers his earliest plays to be his first steps as a playwright when he was learning his craft. As a result, he doesn't feel they particularly reflect the quality or standard of writing he would later achieve and do not stand up particularly well due to his inexperience as a writer. As a result, he has never allowed them to be performed again and has not published the plays. For researchers interested in the early plays, they are available to read at both the British Library and within the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York.

The website states Alan Ayckbourn wrote several plays before The Square Cat, why is this considered his first play?
Alan Ayckbourn has frequently noted he wrote approximately nine - unproduced - plays before he was commissioned by Stephen Joseph to write The Square Cat. This is the reason The Square Cat is considered his first play, it was both his first professional commission and his first play to be performed professionally.

What does the title of The Square Cat mean, if anything?
Although Alan Ayckbourn is famed for using play titles which have little, if anything, to do with the actual plays (the most famous example being Absurd Person Singular, whose title was intended for another play entirely and has absolutely no bearing on the play itself), The Square Cat is tied in closely to the play. The Square Cat refers to the lead character of the play, the identity changing Arthur Brummage / Jerry Wattis, who is a 'square cat.' This uses common slang of the period with 'square' equating to boring and 'cat' being trendy and hip. It encompasses both sides of the character's split personality, the quiet and bookish Arthur and the rock-star Jerry.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.