by Alan Ayckbourn.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre Port-Na-Craig Pitlochry PH16 5DR In rep to 13 October 2011.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01796 484626.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 August.
Futuristic play makes a very good show for the present Pitlochry season.
This isn’t the first Alan Ayckbourn play at Pitlochry, but Henceforward isn’t what Ayckbourn’s usually associated with. Dating from 1987 it was the second play, following 1985’s Woman in Mind, where the playwright expanded from his comic surveys of middle-class mores. And even Woman had stuck to a familiar setting in its mix of fact and fantasy.
Here, the action looks to a future where young children grow into aggressive, denatured teenagers. Gangs roam the streets, chuck stones at shuttered windows and extort money to allow people through.
In 1987 it seemed a middle-aged fear of the new. Now it seems an early example of Ayckbourn’s concern with the way increased communications technology leads to greater human isolation. And how an artist’s absorption with his work cuts him off from awareness of others’ feelings.
Jerome is a composer, whose work uses advanced technology (only at the end do we see how much it’s filled his home as well as his life). He creates sounds from conversations about the house, secretly recorded without regard for how people might react to such intrusion.
The only person sharing his home is an automaton. Like the self-humanising android in Ayckbourn’s later Comic Potential, Nan 300 malfunctions, but here – in her expressionless movement and the vacuum-tubing she carries like a lance – there’s a sense of threat.
Jerome wants his sweet daughter – whom he sees only on old tapes – back. He has to persuade social-worker Mervyn (Darren Minchin, skilfully offsetting his imposing frame with a light voice and jargon-ridden inability to assert himself), he’s a fit person, overcoming the hostility of estranged wife Corinna. Having attempted to fake a stable relationship with hired actor Zoë, he tries programming Nan to appear human.
Though there’s comedy in individual situations, tension remains throughout, not least in the contrast between Jerome’s own desperation and his inconsiderate treatment of others.
From designer Ken Harrison’s grey flat-block front on, it’s one of Ayckbourn’s more abrasive pieces, but director Ken Alexander and his cast judge each element rightly and give the piece full value in an impressive Pitlochry night.
Jerome: Alan Steele.
Lupus: Fred Broom.
Zoë: Shirley Darroch.
Corinna: Helen Logan.
Mervyn: Darren Minchin.
Geain/Rita: Kate Quinnell.
Nan 300: Herself.
Young Geain: Elsie Cheyne.
Director: Ken Alexander.
Designer/Costume: Ken Harrison.
Lighting: Ace McCarron.
Sound: Gareth Willox.
Composer: Jon Beales.
Associate lighting: Kate Bonney.