Writer of A Fox on the Fairway, Ken Ludwig is a two-time Olivier Award-winning playwright whose work is performed throughout the world in more than thirty countries and over twenty languages. He has written twenty-four plays and musicals, with six Broadway productions and seven in London’s West End. His Tony-winning play Lend Me A Tenor, was called “one of the classic comedies of the 20th century” by The Washington Post. His other plays and musicals include Crazy For You (5 years on Broadway, Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Musical), Moon Over Buffalo (Broadway and West End), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Broadway), Treasure Island (West End) and Twentieth Century (Broadway).
He recently revealed more about what audiences can expect from the British premiere of his farcical comedy, A Fox on the Fairway at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch.
1) For those that don’t know the play, what is A Fox on the Fairway about?
The play is about a rivalry between two nearby golf courses. But what it’s really about is love, frustration, friendship, competition, sex, anger, joy, second chances, youth, middle age and all the insanity that goes into finding and living with the right person in life.
2) What can people expect from this farce?
I hope they can see their own lives and concerns ramped up into the frantic pace of a stage farce. Life is full of triumphs and tragedies and all of us try to enjoy the triumphs and get the tragedies behind us. In a stage farce, these highs and lows are exaggerated to create the fizz of art. All art tries to create a sort of fizz of recognition. We know when a piece of art is working when we get that little pop of joy at the right time. Maybe it’s a line of dialogue that feels just right. Or an entrance we were waiting for. Or an entrance that just surprises us. Whatever causes it, the hoped-for result is a sort of frisson of recognition. What I’m hoping is that A Fox on the Fairway creates at least a few of those wonderful moments.
3) What was your inspiration behind writing the play?
I love all plays when they make me sit on the edge of my seat; and I especially love stage comedies. I read them, see them and think about them all the time. My immediate inspiration for this play was a moment when I was playing golf. Confession: I am truly one of the worst golfers in the world. Not just in my city, mind you. In the world. So I was playing golf with one of my best friends and telling him that I had just finished writing my latest play and was casting around for ideas for a new one, and he foozled a chip shot, joining me in a sand trap where I was about to play my 8th or 9th shot on that hole. At that moment he said “What about setting a play at this club. Golf is funny if you don’t kill yourself trying to play it.” And I thought, “What a good idea!”
4) You say that A Fox on the Fairway is a tribute to the great English farce tradition that began in the 1880s and grew in popularity in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Who are some of your influences?
My influences in the world of stage comedy start with Shakespeare, of course. So much for God. Then Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer), Sheridan (The Rivals), Farquhar, Wilde, Shaw, Coward, and on it goes. But for this particular kind of comedy – I like to call it muscular comedy (I never liked the word farce very much), my favourite writers are from the 1880s to the 1940s and include Sir Arthur Wing Pinero (Dandy Dick, The Magistrate, The Schoolmistress), Ben Travers (Plunder, A Cuckoo in the Nest, Rookery Nook, Thark), Coward (Hay Fever, Blithe Spirit), Philip King (See How They Run) Hecht and MacArthur (The Front Page) and Kaufman and Hart (Once in a Lifetime). In the world of prose comedy, I’m also always inspired by P.G. Wodehouse. In addition to his sublime novels and short stories about Jeeves and Wooster, and the Earl of Emsworth and his prize pig, he wrote two volumes of short stories about golf. One is entitled The Clicking of Cuthbert and the other is entitled The Heart of a Goof. In some ways, I’d love this play to feel like one of his golf stories come to life.
5) Many of your plays are set in the past, but this production has a very modern feel to it. What themes were you able to explore by doing this?
Sex, of course, is at the center of the play. Sex and golf – and what could be better? At the same time, I’ve tried to retain in the play a kind of dramatic innocence, which the setting and milieu demands. It is meant to be a light comedy in the tradition of Travers, Coward and Kauffman and Hart, so it would feel inappropriate, at least to me, to make it explicit in any way. So while the play is set modern, I hope there’s a feel of comic timelessness about it.
A Fox on the Fairway runs at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch from 25 Aug – 16 Sep. For more information and tickets click here.