Theatre: The End of History, Royal Court Theatre, London

The focus for Jack Thorne’s family drama is the ties that bind us through the passage of time – and in the case of one Berkshire household, that means episodes spanning a
20-year period.

It begins in 1997, with Sal and David (Played by Lesley Sharp and David Morrissey) hosting a weekend gathering of their brood.

Their three children are Carl (Sam Swainsbury), who is showing off Harriet (Zoe Boyle) the woman who will become his bride.

Middle daughter Polly (Kate O’Flynn) is back from Cambridge University.

Youngest son Tom (Laurie Davidson) is the one getting into trouble in his final years at school – always in detention.

THE END OF HISTORY  The Royal Court Theatre, Credit: Johan Persson

Mum and dad are well-off middle class lefties, who you would think might have had sympathies with Tony Blair, given the era, but who are more sympathetic to the
Momentum ideology of today and are vehemently opposed to the New Labour project of the late 1990s.

There are disagreements – political, sexual and ideological in nature. There is love and there is anger. There is a lot of swearing.

There are also high hopes for something a little more memorable than the script served up, given the awards the writer has accumulated on an impressive CV.

Thorne won a Tony and Olivier awards for Best Play and Best New Play in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and he was part of BAFTA-award winning teams on the highly acclaimed This is England TV dramas penned by Shane Meadows.

Yet in truth, little elevates The End of History out of a fairly mundane, linear piece of storytelling, which is never punctuated by anything out of the ordinary.

There is nothing you would not expect to see replicated in just about any family you cared to study.

THE END OF HISTORY  The Royal Court Theatre, Credit: Johan Persson

And although there is an attempt to emphasise a passing of time with wall calendar pages shed to indicate the tumble of years, you do not get any real sense of significant new eras – in fact it seems like a resume of a couple of years in the life of our Newbury family rather than a couple of decades.

Brexit gets a mention but only really in passing. For a family with such a supposed interest in politics, that seems strange.

There is a marriage, a divorce and a funeral. There are lame jokes – which are maybe true to life. But there is often jarring and implausible dialogue, which seems to
seek outrage rather than a ring of truth.

Hardest of all to understand is the point of it all. Sal is supposed to have been a deep thinking, bright woman but your lasting impression is of an irritating and cringy housewife with questionable cooking skills.

Dad David dotes on her and wants what’s best for his kids. Not quite the earth-shattering revelation we are after.

There is one controversy over inheritance of the house which seems to run counter to wanting what’s best for the kids – but that merely fuels the feeling that the couple are not especially likeable.

In terms of both comic reach and gravitas, it falls short, which is disappointing given the acting talents in Sharp and Morrissey and the writer’s background.

It is a rare miss for the Royal Court, which has built a justifiable reputation as being one of the very best places to see ground-breaking theatre.

The End of History continues until August 10.

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