Harry Potter and the Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany swerve into kitchen sink drama with The End of History, a nicely-judged skid through the 20 years from 1997 onwards, in one bantering Berkshire household.
There is something Weasley, or weaselly, about this family: parents Lesley Sharp and David Morrissey are warm and witty, but the three siblings — Sam Swainsbury (from BBC2’s outstanding Mum), Kate O’Flynn and their afterthought gay brother are differently discontented with each other and with their parents.
They voice their internal monologues clearly but with so many different standpoints, the interactive dialogue doesn’t fly so well. The exception comes in scenes with Swainsbury’s posh girlfriend — a coolly smart Zoe Boyle — who the socialist parents are oddly anxious to please and flatter.
Although there’s no interval, three acts each end with a dramatic-to-melodramatic reveal and a ten-year time shift. It’s structurally clever, but there’s also some predictability. After the most severe of these, Morrisey delivers a terrific speech which stops the laughter and has the audience completely rapt — a rare moment of superb theatre.
Finally, with splendid authorial restraint, the conclusion is cathartic but not redemptive.
There’s continual commentary on politics, voiced mostly by Sharp’s perfectly-observed character who is passionate about change and social justice. And this may be the clue to how Thorne’s work stands apart from routine comedies of manners.
Death of a Salesman, another well-written domestic drama with disillusioned parents and angry children, is an anthem for the failed legacy of the American Dream. The End of History may be an anthem for the legacy of Tony Blair.
The End of History, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS, £12-£95. Until August 10.
Last Updated 04 July 2019