Review - Henceforward at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Henceforward
Henceforward

There was a strange atmosphere for the production by the legendary Alan Ayckbourn

And it wasn't just because of the lack of bums on seats for the Monday night performance at the Royal & Derngate. It may well have been because this was a show that is very difficult to get a handle on.

It sees a composer Jerome struggling to put together a masterpiece. It's been four years since he ever composed anything and not co-incidentally, it has been four years since his wife and daughter left him.

So he concocts a plan to get his daughter back involving an actress/escort and a deranged child loving android. Which seems like a perfectly normal thing to do.

I will avoid major spoilers as there are plenty of twists but the first half in particular is very hard going. While there is a lot of things to explain that do pay off for amusing effect in the second half, the points are sometimes laboured a little too much which is a shame as I get the feeling that with removing around half an hour's worth of material would result in a much better piece.

Which is a shame as there is a lot to admire in the show, particularly the performances and the setting. When anyone attempts science fiction, you have to create a convincing world and that is very difficult within the confines of a theatre setting. But there is an admirable attempt to create a world where law and order has broken down and a future which looks like it might be ominously close.

But it is the skill of the performers which probably carries this play through. Laura Matthews stands out as Zoe, a wannabe actress but actual first time escort, in creating the character's enthusiasm and desperation of the situation she finds herself. She re-appears in the second half in a very different role and she is pitch perfect, but it would spoil the surprise if I said it was.

And Jacqueline King as the deranged android is a delight to watch, even more in the second half when she plays... ah well, that would be telling.

Bill Champion's Jerome perhaps could be a tad more likeable for me but his performance certainly conveys the dismay and despair of a creative type completely out of inspiration.

But this is an interesting play albeit quite flawed. But one that raises quite a few of laughs and one that hopefully gets a better audience throughout the run.

Henceforward can be seen at Northampton's Royal & Derngate until Saturday February 11. For tickets call the box office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.