Henceforward...: Character Notes by Alan Ayckbourn

Alan Ayckbourn rarely writes in-depth character notes for his characters. However, within his personal archive there are some notes from 1988 with Alan's thoughts on the character of Jerome in Henceforward…, as well as notes sent by Alan Ayckbourn for casting the 1987 North American premiere which he directed at the Alley Theatre, Houston.

Alan Ayckbourn on Jerome
Jerome to a large degree is a child, of course. He behaves badly and when his mother scolds him he sulks. But he longs for forgiveness. Because he desperately needs Corinna's approval. And he also can’t behave badly if there’s no one to see him behaving badly. He genuinely needs her attention, too. Everything he does in the play - well, nearly - is related to his feelings for Corinna. To hurt her, to make her love him - to make her react. I don’t care what she does to me - so long as she notices me. Like a lot of writers, most, I guess, she’s also the one whose approval of his work he needs. Zoë’s inept attempts to rewrite the sketch in Act I point that up only too clearly. Corinna would never have done that.

Corinna, like anyone who lives with anyone for any length of time, knows Jerome’s weakest point. She knows how to punish him. Even if it means punishing herself. But then, as she tells herself, I can take a lot more pain than that little boy. Deny him emotion, deny him feeling and he starves and wilts. Hence the iron lady image she grimly presents. I am not going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me feel anything, she says to herself when she first arrives.
Everything that happens after that is really a case of Jerome waiting for a reaction and Corinna knowing that he’s waiting for one, not giving him that pleasure.

Until the explosion. Then comes the anger and the tears in their big scene together. Jerome is appalled. Sure, he kept kicking mummy in the shins but he never meant to make her cry. There’s few things more alarming to a kid than to see his mother cry. A woman’s tears and all that. Except that these are totally reluctant tears. And Corinna despises herself for shedding them. As she disapproves deeply of any woman who uses tears to get her way.
In the midst of all this, Mervyn and Geain are used by both of them; Jerome and Corinna, two gunfighters, using the other two for shields. In Mervyn’s case excusable. But in Geain’s case, of course, inexcusable. Until the final coming together neither Jerome nor Corinna make any attempt to talk to her. Geain is either referred to, in her presence, as if she wasn’t there at all - or merely to score another point off the opposing side. No wonder she’s in crisis.

She (Geain) only really gains importance - in Jerome’s eyes anyway (the Geain he loves remains firmly on the video, of course) - when she proves the final obstacle between him and his ambition. Somehow, he feels, if he can talk Geain away from NAN - somehow justify the human race to her - happiness will be his. He will have re-gained Corinna’a approbation.

The final arguments they both make to Geain must be vitally important to them both. It’s a test that they both need to pass. They are arguing for their lives. If the three of them can touch then the game is won.

Jerome fails the test - he can’t think of a reason. But by God he tries. It’s agony. Corinna, by contrast, forces herself, emotionally, to do a complete striptease in public. And that for her is real agony. She actually comes out with the word that she swore she’d never ever say again. Love - loving.
And if that wasn’t enough she has to say it again. Because we both love you, Jerome. Never in history has a man been told in less uncertain terms what a woman feels about him. And from a woman who swore she’d never give away one inch of her inner self or allow him to trample on one cubic centimetre of her heart ever again.

And never has a man been so idiotically blind as to walk back into a burning building and write a tune that no-one’s ever going to hear. But then a creative artist has to do what a….

Other Casting Notes
Jerome: (late thirties, early forties) As you may gather, a flawed man. It will need an actor with a certain inbuilt charm to compensate for the man's infuriating selfishness. I think we need an actor who, a few years ago, could have played Norman in The Norman Conquests. He was equally outrageous but redeemed by the fact that he was totally transparent about everything he did. A child who honestly believed that the world was built for him to play in and that God had, very considerately, laid on a large cast of supporting players as well.
Zoë: (mid to late twenties) Fairly clear this one, I think. Vivacious, fun, a bit dizzy - but not cute! When she takes on the mantle of Nan in part two she becomes a very sanitised, hygienic version of her former self. But what might be trickier is that she should be about the same height, (I think size of frame less important) as:-
Corinna: (mid thirties) We get the bad news about her in Act I, of course. A rather stern, tough image, the reverse of Zoë in fact. In Act Two, when the poor woman cracks apart we see the woman within. Chic. Sort of angular whereas Zoë is curved, if you know what I mean.
Geain: Not a child, please. Just a very small actress.
Mervyn: (thirties) Quite a big man, I think. Firm handshake and a good clean smile. Why does nobody like him? Perhaps because of his firm handshake and his good clean smile. Children loathe him. He manages to talk down to new born babies.

Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of Alan Ayckbourn.