• Amy Toledano

the end of history... by Jack Thorne

Image by Johan Persson

What is it?

A new drama by Jack Thorne that spans thirty years in the lives and home of a not so typical British family.

What's it all about?

the end of history... follows the events in a complicated family life. Starting in 1997 (as the calendar strategically hung up on the wall tells us) we experience new relationships, shifts in family dynamics, heartbreak and occasionally, affection.

Sal (Lesley Sharp) and David (David Morrissey), as their children also refer to them as (Mum and Dad are not common words used in this household), are nervous and excited about their oldest son Carl (Sam Swainsbury) bringing home his new girlfriend Harriet (Zoe Boyle) for dinner. They fuss and are nervous, and openly discuss the fact that her wealthy family is quite different to their own. Their middle daughter Polly (Kate O'Flynn) is also home from university, full of cynicism and willingness to berate her brother and her parents at any given moment.

Once the young couple arrive the tension and uncomfortable nature of the conversation is palpable, and a shock announcement leaves the family shaken, Harriet in tears and Carl furious, as the youngest of the family Tom (Laurie Davidson) wanders in from detention to the mess unawares.

Jump ahead ten years to 2007, and we find Harriet and Carl still together, now with a family, Polly a corporate lawyer, and Tom unable to hold down a job. Sal and David are still much the same, returning home from a local protest and bringing with them some important news about the future of their estate and inadvertently uncovering the pressure that their children have felt all their lives and the difficulties they have had with their parents expectations of them.

One final move forward to 2017 and the children are now all adults, writing speeches and preparing their final goodbyes to a family member who has been with them all along.

How did it make me feel?

This show feels like being transported into someone's front room. Jack Thorne creates characters that are full and flawed, and the cast are absolutely wonderful and create a family dynamic that is raw and familiar.

Lesley Sharp and David Morrissey as Sal and David are a sublime combination. Their chemistry and love spills out over audience and cast alike and bring a lovely perspective on marriage that is rarely seen on the contemporary stage.

Kate O'Flynn is a stand out as the sharp tongued middle daughter Polly. Her growth from decade to decade is subtle but clever and her comedy timing cannot be faulted.

The casting is perfect, as the audience is drawn into this family immediately, and keeps us there until its last moments. Clear direction by John Tiffany is obvious throughout and Movement Director Steven Hoggett guides the transitions beautifully as the cast weave in and out of each others lives in a dream like fashion. The Quiet by Imogen Heap is the haunting and gorgeous piece of music that underscores these time lapses, bringing a cinematic quality to the show.

Each Act brought up a different range of emotions in me, mostly though, familiarity in the desperate need to please and live up to one another, and the ensemble, both cast and creatives really have done a brilliant job at creating this world.

Where Is It Playing?

The Royal Court's Jerwood Theatre Downstairs is the perfect choice for this production. I was in absolute awe of the set design by Grace Smart from the moment I walked into the theatre. The stunning set boasts a huge kitchen and dining space that is familiar and eccentric, complete with extremely large glass doors looking out onto a garden and a full scale tree that overhangs slightly into the kitchen.

The use of lighting to indicate the sun rising and setting through these doors is absolutely breathe-taking and an absolute credit to the creative's vision for the piece, in particular lighting designer Jack Knowles.

Anything Else?

I went into the theatre thinking this show would be hard work, and to some extent I was right. But it was hard work in the way that any family unit can be. Jack Thorne brings a bit of magic to the Royal Court with the end of history... and is another wonderful piece of programming by the Royal Court.

Amy x

the end of history... is playing at the Royal Court Theatre until the 10th August 2019

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