The End of History by Jack Thorne. Royal Court Theatre, London SW1W to 10 August. 3 ***. William Russell.

By Jack Thorne
The Jerwood Downstairs, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS to
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm
Runs 1hr 50 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: William Russell 4 July.

Parents and children

There is no faulting the performances nor the direction by John Tiffany of this interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying play about a left wing family over the years from 1997 to the present. It opens with Sal and David having their three children back for the weekend. Their eldest son Carl has brought his new girlfriend Harriet to meet them all, daughter Polly is down from Cambridge and youngest son Tom, who has been serving time for drug offences, is expected. The problem is that they don’t live up to the ideals of their parents who are anything but Blairites and are, in a sense, a disappointment to their parents of which they are all perfectly well aware.
It starts off as a kitchen table comedy of badly prepared suppers – cooking is something Sal has never mastered; takeaways are the rule of the day, or eggs – and the problems of absorbing this new girl who comes from a right wing family. Then turns more serious – there is a lovely scene when David explains that he and Sal may live in a rather nice house but the patently appalled kids need not expect to inherit as the cash is going to their favourite left wing causes. Another when the unstable Tom tries to kill himself, then Carl and Harriet get into marital problems, and finally Sal dies, leaving a bereft David to deliver a deeply moving Quaker style speech about just what she was like to his children who have been squabbling over what they will say at the funeral.
David Morrissey as David is heart rending to listen to and totally convincing as a kind of Bennite figure. Lesley Sharp as the activist Sal, desperate to bond with her children but unable work out how to do it, turns in a beautifully observed performance all sharp edges and longing. The play is certainly perceptive about the way families fight, come back together, r and then fight again, but the political background is only sketched in and one would have expected rather more. Sal has a moment which says it all about how she regards Tony Blair when she switches off the radio before he can be heard but somehow the changes Gordon Brown affected pass by almost without mention, and Brexit, which surely must have affected them all, is hardly there let alone Corbyn as the story comes to its end. One admires the playing, the production, the way the set conjures up the comfortably left wing world of people like Sal and David who are not short of a bob or two and live high on ideals, but feels deprived of any real political meat to the story.
Polly: Kate O’Flynn.
Sal: Lesley Sharp.
David; David Morrissey.
Carl: Sam Swainsbury.
Harriet: Zoe Boyle.
Tom: Laurie Davidson.

Director: John Tiffany.
Designer: Grace Smart.
Lighting Designer: Jack Knowles.
Sound Designer: Tom Gibbons.
Movement Director: Steven Hoggett.
Costume Supervisor: Lucy Walshaw.
Production photograph: Johan Persson.

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