Review - the end of history... at the Royal Court

Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton

This tender, bracing and beautiful portrait of family life is a throwback in many ways: not just because it occurs across three time spans in the recent past - from 1997 to 2007 and 2017 - but also to the type of Royal Court play that reflects the tensions and disappointments of a lifelong socialist idealism and activism, and its multiple betrayals from Blair to Brexit.

As such, it feels pretty conventional SW1 fare that we've seen at this address regularly in the past; and John Tiffany's production even feels at times like a tribute to the kind of Max Stafford-Clark production of the 1980s with its sweeps of choreographed movement underlining the action (the work of Tiffany's regular collaborator Steven Hoggett). 

But Jack Thorne's compassionate, deeply textured study of this family has a lovely inner life that pulses with themes of curdling parental embarrassment, mental crisis, love, loss and legacy (in every sense). And in this superlatively well-cast and acted production, it cuts deep. I was both absorbed throughout and regularly in tears, too.

Thorne's play is partly autobiographical - in a recent interview, he called it "the most personal thing I've ever written"- so no wonder it has the ring of spellbinding truth. He even admitted, "Sal and David are pretty tight versions of Maggie and Mike, my mum and dad."

But he's also a clearly loving son: "My mum and dad really are those people - they are amazing and brilliant. They are tricky parents. I want to shake them sometimes. But I love them very much, and this is a love note."

As played by the alternately brittle and open Lesley Sharp and the solid, kind David Morrissey, they are portrayed with spellbinding integrity - but they also give their three adult children a lot to live up to. And as we follow them through two decades, plenty happens to each of them; and they are given fierce expression by Sam Swainsbury as the oldest brother, Kate O' Flynn as the middle sister and Laurie Davidson as the youngest, damaged son. 

This is a seriously good, warm-hearted play that had me hooked.

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

the end of history... tickets are available now. 

Photo credit: Johan Persson

Originally published on

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