Home » London Theatre News » Interview with Elinor Lawless and Rufus Wright – The End of Hope

Interview with Elinor Lawless and Rufus Wright – The End of Hope

The End of HopeDavid Ireland’s dark comedy The End of Hope makes its London premiere at Soho Theatre. The play originated at the Oran Mór in Glasgow and it played for a few nights at the Orange Tree earlier this year. It is now ‘transferring to the west end’ for a full 5-week run.

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.

Elinor Lawless and Rufus Wright answered a few questions about the production…

Elinor Lawless
What can you tell us about ‘The End of Hope’?
Well, I don’t want to say too much but, in a nutshell, the play is an edgy contemporary comedy about relationships, politics and the darker uses of the common courgette.

How did each of you get involved in the production?
I first auditioned for the role of Janet when it was being staged as part of the Director’s festival at The Orange Tree Theatre. I have a little boy, Joe, and this was my first audition back after becoming a mum. As soon as I read the script for the meeting I was dying to be part of it!

What were your thoughts when first learning about the play (reading the script etc)
I remember very clearly sitting down to read the script for the first time and doing a bit of a double take at the opening stage direction: ‘Janet is dressed as a mouse.’ All I could think was – ‘please let this play be as good as I think it’s going to be!’ It was better. One of the things that really struck me was the fearlessness of the writing, its ballsiness and its warmth. I was already an admirer of David Ireland’s work and this play affirmed why.

You play the part of Janet – can you tell us about your character?
Janet is a really refreshing mix of brutal and vulnerable. She is the kind of woman that you would secretly love to be your mate but you would never dream of inviting to your drinks and nibbles night.

Described as ‘Complex, hilarious and fascinating’ Joyce McMillan, Scotsman. What is the key to the humour in the production?
As with all great comedy, you end up giving a damn about these two characters – I think that’s quite a feat to achieve in one hour – but David Ireland does that. The writing is sharp, economic and moves at a breakneck pace. It plays on all our middle-class insecurities and hang-ups and reminds us that, even at our lowest ebb, human beings can be bloody funny and loveable.

What do you hope the audience will get from The End of Hope?
First and foremost – a solid hour of entertainment. I guess, for me, what really resonates with this play is how it explores and exposes the current climate of politics, media, faith and relationships. It’s all a bit ‘us and them’ and I think the backdrop of Belfast, post Good-Friday Agreement, serves as a really interesting platform to explore
that kind black and white thinking.

For you, what works and what doesn’t in a two-hander?
I definitely work. I’m not so sure about Rufus.

Offstage, what do you like to do to chill out?
I’m really into Pilates and Bikram yoga at the minute. No seriously though, most of the time I’ll be eating something – or thinking about eating something and then regretting what I did finally eat. It’s that winning combination of womanhood and Catholic guilt.

Why should everyone get along to see The End of Hope?
It’s smart, it’s compassionate and it’s very funny. There’s also a mouse in it. It should also be said that when my mum came to see it at the Orange Tree she told me that she thought I’d really improved. If you want to be a part of that journey then get booking.

Rufus Wright
What can you tell us about ‘The End of Hope’?
It’s a very funny, touching, very short play that feels extremely current but avoids endless references to social media, Trump n’ Brexit, and twerking (although that was more 2013 really).

How did each of you get involved in the production?
I’d wanted to and had almost worked at the Orange Tree before. Living in Walthamstow, Richmond is obviously incredibly convenient for me. No, I’ve been keen work there since Paul Miller took over there, as I think his programming is fantastic. I relished the opportunity to work with a young director, and loved the script from the off. It did so well at the Orange Tree that it caught Steve Marmion’s attention at Soho and now it’s getting a proper run there.

What were your thoughts when first learning about the play (reading the script etc)?
That it was really unusual and incredibly funny. I understand it’s been performed in Europe but not in London so it was great to be able to bring it here. It opens with a straight couple who have just had sex, and the woman is wearing a full body mouse costume and mask. It’s clear within 2 minutes that he’s never seen her out of this. Much of the play is spent with him trying to persuade her to remove the mask. Not to give anything away, but when she does remove it (dammit), it’s an amazing moment on stage.

You play the part of Dermot – can you tell us about your character?
Dermot is an incredibly good-looking, well-built human being. I’m joking. But he has a high opinion of himself. He considers himself to be Ireland’s greatest living poet and is pretty confident in most social situations, but when confronted with a woman dressed as a mouse who enjoys the anonymity of disguise he is flummoxed. Although the mouse costume is obviously silly, the play has its roots in quite complex questions about female identity- the burqa, the right of women to determine how much they want to conceal their faces- whether that concealment is part of a wider patriarchal hegemony, and so on. In that sense, Dermot is struggling with a much bigger debate about empowerment. But look again and there’s a tall man with very white legs who’s just slept with a giant mouse. The play flits between these two things with extraordinary ease.

Described as ‘Complex, hilarious and fascinating’ Joyce McMillan, Scotsman. What is the key to the humour in the production?
I think there’s always something funny about pompous men dealing with situations in which they are uncomfortable. Janet is an entirely frank, extremely funny and deadpan character and Dermot never really knows whether or not she’s pulling his leg. Can someone genuinely say they’ve never heard of Friends because they watch ITV and not Channel 4?

What do you hope the audience will get from The End of Hope?
They’ll laugh, a lot, and hopefully, will be left thinking for a while about the deeper questions the playwright is posing. And those who are turned on by big sexy mice and confused bearded Northern Irishmen will possibly get quite aroused.

For you, what works and what doesn’t in a two-hander?
A big thing in casting nowadays is the ‘Chemistry Read’. Yes, these two actors are great but do they have Chemistry? The two sexiest actors in the world can have nothing when you put them together (Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, anyone?). I think good two handers need a real spark. I was lucky enough to do a play called The One by Vicky Jones with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, also at Soho. Much of the play was just the two of us talking, teasing, testing each other, and there was a terrific sense of sparkiness, danger and fun on stage. Once you’ve got that and a good script, you’re set. 

Offstage, what do you like to do to chill out?
Consolidate my debts into convenient monthly payments. That and paint. You can commission me at rufuswright.com 

Why should everyone get along to see The End of Hope?
Because they’ll laugh like eejits and they’ll be in the bar by 8pm. Yes, 8pm! Then they can either have some drinks or stay and see some comedy. Soho is the best theatre of its kind in the world. Often 9 shows a night. Something for everyone.

SOHO THEATRE AND THE ORANGE TREE THEATRE PRESENT THE END OF HOPE
SOHO THEATRE
Tue 10 Oct – Sat 11 Nov, 7.15pm
http://www.sohotheatre.com/

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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