Fringe Box



Theatre Review: Henceforward… At The Yvonne Arnaud

Published on: 24 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 24 Jan, 2017

By Ferenc Hepp

What better way to kick off a new season of plays now that panto season has come to a close, than a good old traditional Ayckbourn comedy?

Henceforward… is at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this week and is certainly Ayckbourn, mostly a comedy, but definitely not traditional.

Henceforward… by Alan Ayckbourn. Picture: Tony Bartholomew / Turnst One Media.

This is Ayckbourn’s 34th full-length play which opened in Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1987, made it to the West End a year later and won the Evening Standard Best Comedy Award in 1989.

According to the programme, the setting is ‘sometime quite soon’ and the action happens in Jerome’s rather bland and bunker-like futuristic flat, surrounded by recording equipment as he is a composer using human voices for inspiration.

Act I sets the scene and we find out that Jerome (Bill Champion) invited Zoe (Laura Matthews), from an escort agency, in order to pretend that he has a happy existence with his fiancée so that he can get his daughter back from a broken marriage, once he had demonstrated his lifestyle to his ex-wife and an official from the Department of Child Wellbeing, who are due for a visit.

We are also introduced to ‘NAN 300 F’, a female android, who is programmed to look after children, but nothing seems to go quite right for this machine and that is where a lot of laughs come from.

In fact, we see three very different characters here, the calm, rather understated Jerome, emotional Zoe and the robotic NAN.

The range of emotions that Matthews has to deal with is brought brilliantly to the stage by this young actress, crying, laughter, vulnerability and anger within a short period of time, but all with a sense of dizziness and vacant eyes which suits the character perfectly.

The robotic physicality and slapstick humour of NAN is brilliantly brought to life by Jacqueline King, which I would have liked to see more of, although Act I being almost an hour and a half, the interval glass of wine was very much needed.

Henceforward… runs until Saturday, January 28. Picture: Tony Bartholomew / Turnst One Media.

King then takes on the role of Corinna, the estranged wife, in Act II, NAN is re-programmed by Jerome to become Zoe, the dutiful fiancée, and we also meet the 13 year old daughter, Geain (pronounced Jane) played by Jessie Hart, who is very different from the sweet little girl that Jerome once knew.

Again, the highlight has to be Matthews for me who becomes a rather scary but attractive android and seems to transform Geain back into an innocent little girl, tricking Corinna and the rather tedious jobs worth Mervyn (Nigel Hastings) into believing that she is Jerome’s loving fiancée before the truth is revealed.

Corinna’s declaration of love and her plea for Jerome to live with her and Geain again is very sudden and unexpected / unexplained, but gives the opportunity for Champion to offer us something the character of Jerome has not had previously, and that is a sense of passion and inspiration when he begins to compose again.

This ‘futuristic’ plot is not something I expected from Ayckbourn, and I must admit the blurb did not inspire me, but I would now recommend it whether you are an Ayckbourn fan or not.

It is just downright silly and bizarre sometimes and you do have to suspend your disbelief regularly, but if you are looking for something to take you away from ‘real life’, then do get down to the Arnaud this week and experience why “human beings are better than machines” for yourself.

Henceforward… runs until Saturday, January 28, and tickets are available via the website: or by calling the box office on 01483 440000.

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Responses to Theatre Review: Henceforward… At The Yvonne Arnaud

  1. John Schluter Reply

    January 24, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I saw it on Friday and can corroborate Ferenc’s observations, dark humour at its finest from one of the masters.

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