Alan Ayckbourn's Henceforward

Recently, we visited the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness to see Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Henceforward. Actually, comedy is hardly a full description. It takes a little while to get your bearings. Henceforward, perfprmed by the wonderful Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, is set in what looks like a cross between a recording studio and the cell of a space-age monk. In fact it's the home of Jerome, a middle-aged composer living in conditions of emotional bankruptcy, sexual deprivation and artistic impotence. It doesn't sound like a whole lot of laughs: indeed, like the heroes of most really good comedies, Jerome is at the end of his tether.

We are in the near future. Outside, law and order have finally broken down; the windows are protected by half-inch-thick sheets of steel; and a gang of females called Daughters of Darkness roam the streets handing out summary justice to innocent passers-by. Inside, it's a laminated electronic desert, where Jerome is quivering with the righteous, lonely indignation typical of selfish men who have ruined their marriage through their own brutal obtuseness. All he has for company now is a strange female creature who moves and sounds remarkably like a machine.

It's a strange play. I found it riveting and amusing; the friends we went with didn't enjoy it at all and one of them wanted to leave at the interval! Henceforward isn't the normal Ayckbourn offering. It's thought provoking where he's normally amusing and light-hearted and it deals with complex issues.

The actors were wonderful, especially the two female leads. Playing real women they were excellent, but when they switched places and played "nan" the robot, they were amazing. 

All in all, a very enjoyable evening.