Theatre Review: The End of Hope, Soho Theatre ‘Magnificent from Start to Finish’

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What a relief to find a show that’s smart and funny – laugh out loud funny, by the way – yet relevant insightful, and with complex, nuanced characters. And only an hour long! So, take a bow The End of Hope. You are a slice of perfection; magnificent from start to finish.

Directed so well by Max Elton, we are thrown straight in to one of the most awkward, even absurd, of one-night stands. Janet (Elinor Lawless) and Dermot (Rufus Wright) have hooked up online and they’re already getting down to it. Only everything’s already a little off-kilter as Janet, well, she’s dressed head to toe as a mouse. An unexpected outfit for a quick hook-up – and it doesn’t seem to be worn for kinky reasons either.

But it’s the tricky pillow-talk afterwards that is the focus of this terrific play from David Ireland. Only this is pillow-talk like you’ve never heard it before. It gets off to the most striking of starts when Janet, when asked why she’s online for casual sex, confesses to accidentally killing her husband. But over the next sixty minutes, this couple, thrown together by lust, learn more about themselves and attraction than they ever bargained for.

Janet and Dermot couldn’t be more opposite – Big Brother versus Unreported World, God versus atheism, Clause IV versus Tony Blair… There’s not a single issue, whether it be high-brow politics or low-brow pop culture, that these two agree on. The laughs come thick and fast but weaved within the wit is writing of real depth about identity, how we see ourselves, and the barriers we all have up.

And in Elinor and Rufus, we have been blessed with sublime casting: Rufus is excellent as the arrogant man who seems to be constantly put on the backfoot by the woman in front of him, and Elinor, well…. She is simply wonderful. The perfect embodiment of a tragicomic figure.

I had heard so many good things about this co-production between Soho Theatre and Orange Tree Theatre before I went, yet for it still to impress despite my high expectations is no mean feat. I’m so glad I saw this. In a bleak world, this is an hour of brilliance that is absolutely worth seeing. A gem.

Soho Theatre, London, to November 11, 2017
Tickets from £10.
All images by Robert Day.

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