As one of many, many people who live and work in a city as kaleidoscopic as London, there’s a certain level of resilience and unshockability that develops over time. The End of Hope, a Soho Theatre and Orange Tree Theatre co-production, billed as a dark comedy, has much of its humour in the delivery and comic timing of both Janet (Elinor Lawless) and Dermot (Rufus Wright), from opposing religious traditions in Belfast, though neither, it quickly becomes clear, have any sacred values to speak of. It might work as a television comedy with canned laughter. Except some of the lines in this play are likely to fall foul of broadcasting regulations, and may, with some justification, result in complaints to the broadcaster and the production company.
This, then, is a show that comes across as being able to say certain things simply because it can. But that doesn’t mean that what is said makes sense, and much of the story ends up, one way or another, being quite impossible to accept as credible. Too many times either character holds their hands up and admits they have told lies, until a plausible stage is reached in which it is entirely possible that someone could be lying about what lies they have told.
The narrative is very broad: there’s a screaming match of sorts about certain types of apparently undesirable people who watch Channel 4 as opposed to certain other types of equally undesirable people who watch ITV. There’s something about a conversation with God and a difference of opinion with regards to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Put simply, less is more, and in all the laughter – certain punchlines were, I must admit, very amusing – this play could be better grounded in its topics of discussion, pursuing fewer lines of enquiry but pursuing them with greater depth.
There’s also more than a whiff of misogyny going on. Repeated demands from Dermot to “take it off” seemed dangerously close to intimidation (not least because recent revelations regarding the behaviour of motion picture impresario Harvey Weinstein were still fresh in the mind), and a later reason for him not wanting to pursue some bedroom activity after all was frankly bizarre. There is little in the way of character development, as the emphasis was more on setting up a punchline, and the punchline after that, and so on. Frankly, the narrative is deeper in many stand-up observational comedy routines, which are more logical and easier to listen to than the storyline set out here.
The script can also be too repetitive, and there are too many literal echoes, with Janet or Dermot repeating back what the other just said to them. It is rather like being stuck on a train whose departure has been delayed and then hearing the same update from both the driver in the train cab and the station supervisor in the control room. But given how banal the script was, it still managed to retain my attention. I do fear I doth protest too much: as I began by saying, I wasn’t shocked by what I heard, but there’s no denying the audible gasps from some other members of this unassuming opening night audience.
Despite the play’s title, there is a reasonably positive ending to proceedings. Lawless’ Janet spends the play in a mouse costume, and it is some time before the ‘mousehead’ comes off in order for any facial expressions to be appreciated. This is all part of an intriguing exploration of the pressures Janet faces in trying to achieve a better body, which overall is portrayed with some facetiousness. A somewhat curious and engaging production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
‘Everywhere in the world where there’s a war about religion, two people from each side should have sex. That would bring world peace. We should literally make love and not war’
Dermot and Janet just had some great, if perhaps slightly surreal, hook-up sex. But as they start getting to know each other, things become a little more complicated. Debating and often disagreeing on every possible subject, including political stance, notions of identity, religion, sex, self-worth, culture, fame, class and taste, this unlikely pair soon realise that love and connection are more elusive in the grind of modern life than they anticipated.
By the end of the night no taboo is left untouched. An outrageous and revealing roller-coaster of a comedy from award winning writer David Ireland following his critically-acclaimed Cyprus Avenue (Royal Court Theatre). The End of Hope provides a brutal insight to the haphazard nature of modern relationships.
Returning to Soho Theatre following Vicky Jones’ Verity Bargate Award-winning play The One, Rufus Wright is Dermot, performing alongside Elinor Lawless (King Charles III, Almeida) as Janet.
THE END OF HOPE
Tue 10 Oct – Sat 11 Nov, 7.15pm (60mins)