Henceforward...: London Premiere ReviewsHenceforward… opened in the West End in 1988. This page presents extracts from some of the major reviews of the London premiere of the play.
Daily Express (by Maureen Paton)
"Don't be fooled by the deceptively downbeat first act, a prologue to the second act when the joint really starts jumping with sharp farce. Ayckbourn is fascinated by paradox and explores the chaos that ensues when human beings imitate machines and vice versa. The result is unsettling, dazzling and a wonderful showcase for the aplomb of Jane Asher in her dual role."
Daily Mail (by Jack Tinker)
"The skills he [Ayckbourn] brings to this extraordinary comic fable, as with all his most recent work, is the sure touch of a master…. Mixing farce with fable, domestic crisis with social comment and overlaying it with deft touches of slapstick, Ayckbourn gives us a production that is both awesomely comic and comically awesome."
Daily Telegraph (by Charles Spencer)
"That resourceful stage magician Alan Ayckbourn has produced another dazzling display of theatrical alchemy. It is impossible to think of any other British dramatist who could write a science-fiction play, complete with robots, high-tech gadgets and banks of winking electronic equipment, and transform it into a superbly constructed comedy that also encompasses moments of desperate human sadness. That is the achievement of Henceforward…, his engrossing new play."
Evening Standard (by Milton Shulman)
"The ability of Alan Ayckbourn to convert the dross of a banal domestic issue into a glittering theatrical bauble surfaces again in his latest play, Henceforward…."
Financial Times (by Martin Hoyle)
"Nobody can be as funny as Alan Ayckbourn, or as frightening…. [a] bleakly hilarious vision of the near future…. The final image, on a stage as dark as the equally isolated world of the poor Woman In Mind, is as disturbing as any in Ayckbourn's recent increasingly black oeuvre. Before we reach it there is marvellous comedy to be enjoyed."
The Independent (by Peter Kemp)
"The increasing Ayckbourn insistence on the unfeeling nature of everyday society is also taken a surreal step further in this pay. What is interesting is that the dehumanisation Ayckbourn's drama deploys is essential to the farce at which he excels. Henceforward… fascinatingly - and often very funnily - confronts this."
The Independent (by Peter Jenkins)
"Ayckbourn's genius consists of being funny and profound, in writing brilliantly plotted comedies full of ideas, in which tears of laughter are usual turned to rears of pity. Henceforward… is a many layered play about love and genius, human isolation and the atrophy of feeling. As a play for our times it has been taken to represent the bleakness of our moral landscape and the desert of the spirit we have entered."
International Herald Tribune (by Sheridan Morley)
"The brilliance of Henceforward… is the way that it works within the conventions of West End comedy to come up with a subversive futurist mechanical farce about isolation and introversion, one that looks at moments as though Noël Coward had been asked to rewrite the myth of Frankenstein."
The Listener (by Jim Hiley)
"Henceforward… is Ayckbourn's fiercest, most provocative achievement yet."
Midweek (by Caroline Heslop)
"The play offers a bleak vision of the future. Undoubtedly Ayckbourn's most profound and provocative play to date."
The Observer (by Michael Ratcliffe)
"It is a clever comedy of cheerfully Amisian gloom of the anarchy upon us, the politics of sexual extremism, and the fatuous cheek of the child welfare industry, darkening into the story of an artist who gives up the world for an art no better than high-tech Schumann."
Plays And Players (by Matt Wolf)
"So much of Henceforward… is so breathlessly funny that its shocking climax may evoke unusual gasps. Rest assured that the impact is fully earned…. By the end, it offers proof - as if further proof was needed - that Ayckbourn is as true an original as the British theatre has, capable of making one laugh uproariously and then sending swift, sudden chills up the spine."
The Spectator (by Christopher Edwards)
"At its best, the laughter is painful in several pointed sense. And even if an irredeemable sentimentality does keep seeping through, this is a brilliantly acted production, artful, theatrical and touching to its suburban core."
The Stage (by Paul Chand)
"Spattered with brilliant one-liners, it's a disturbing, dark play."
"As funny as the play is, it also contains a darker, frightening side to it. The dehumanisation of relationships, the relative merits of man against machine (or vice versa), creative blocks, parental frustration, emotional sterility, the brutalisation of the environment, and the high price of the creative process are the themes Ayckbourn, the timely social commentator, touches on…. Henceforward we shall have to regard Ayckbourn as our greatest living playwright bar none."
Sunday Telegraph (by D.A.N. Jones)
"The ensuing events belong to farce of the most fiendish kind. Alan Ayckbourn directs the play with ruthless skill…. Chuckling, we return home […] wondering if Ayckbourn's forebodings merit serious concern as well as morbid laughter."
Sunday Times (by John Peter)
"I called the play a 'comedy' which is shorthand to indicate that it gets funnier and funnier as it goes on, and at the same time says more and more disturbing things…. Henceforward… bristles with questions which seem simple but are really quite hard. It is one of the most inventive, original and breathtakingly hilarious comedies to have come to the West End for some time, and it combines this with being a serious play, searching, shocking, tough."
Today (by Val Simpson)
"Most reassuring is that no machine could construct such a brilliant play. It's undeniably the work of a human genius."
Vogue (by John Lahr)
"Ayckbourn's vision, like his play, is bright, bleak and very cunning."
"Henceforward…, which the author has directed, is dazzlingly, exhilaratingly theatrical."
All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.