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Review: The End Of History, at Royal Court Theatre

11 July, 2019 — By Howard Loxton

Lesley Sharp and David Morrissey in The End of History photo: Johan Persson

“THEY **** you up, your mum and dad,” wrote Philip Larkin. How true is that of Sal and David, the parents in Jack Thorne’s new play which follows their family from 1997 to 2007 and 2017?

Sal and David have strong convictions and try to live by them. They support all the right causes (or rather, all the left ones), when the news leads on an announcement by Tony Blair Sal instantly switches off.

Though borrowing its title from Fukuyama’s book arguing the triumph of the US idea of democracy, this picture of people trying to live ethically is as much about family as politics. It’s a family where, as youngest son Tom (named for Tom Payne) says, “you have to be prepared to say something even more judgemental than the person before you,” yet there is real love between them.

It starts like satirical sitcom with schoolteacher Sal (whose self-announced talent is “for pissing off my children”) already embarrassed because eldest son Carl (called after Marx), who always had a penchant for posh girls, is bringing the latest one home. Its arguments become more interesting as it leaps the decades and the children turn out not as hoped for. There is too little to connect the personal with public events but experiences are rooted in reality.

Daughter Polly, a standout at school finds herself just one among many when getting to Cambridge, though she goes on to a career as a barrister.

Director John Tiffany keeps things lively, emphasising the humour. There is a raw and revealing Sal from Lesley Sharp that is free of any artifice and an uncompromising performance from David Morrissey as David that culminates in an extraordinarily moving scene that raises things to a new level that makes it worth seeing.

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