Theatre Review: End of the Pier, Park Theatre, Finsbury Park
PUBLISHED: 15:34 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 20 July 2018
END OF THE PIER
Bookended by two terrific stand-up comedy performances, End of the Pier is an intelligent and challenging piece of theatre.
Bobby’s stellar career of the 1980s crashed after a Guardian journo reported his telling a racist joke at a gig in Macclesfield (“You don’t expect a Guardian journalist in Macclesfield”). We are in the dowdy sitting room of his Blackpool home – he is not living the dream.
On the television, son Michael is delivering his observational and topical (Brexit, Trump, World Cup) routine: not a flicker of amusement troubles Bobby’s impassive countenance.
Michael arrives and they banter, finish each other’s jokes and argue the merits of traditional with alternative stand up – even referencing the great Stanley Holloway. “Why,” asks Bobby, “Did we get twenty million views each week?” “Because,” flashes back Michael, “there was nothing on the other side!”
An interesting enough debate, but End of the Pier soon takes us to much darker places, posing deeply uncomfortable questions about comedy, racism, family, personal honesty and integrity.
The mood changes when Michael asks his dad (although, like Bart Simpson he rarely uses the word Dad) for advice. There has been an incident with the potential to ruin his career: will history repeat itself?
They are joined by Michael’s girlfriend: Jenna, a BBC Comedy Commissioner, doesn’t gel with Bobby. Tala Gouveia delivers a wonderful portrayal of a social media and Prêt obsessed, uber focussed technocrat.
I am determined not to reveal too much of this wonderfully entertaining, beautifully constructed plot: it sparkles with invention, unexpected twists and clever-clever dialogue. Enough to say is that Michael’s “incident” involves his hitting someone, abusing them and being threatened with a Twitter exposure.
The victim of the assault is played by the extraordinarily talented Nitin Ganatra. He has a difficult role: like a striptease, he gradually exposes more while teasing and mocking the audiences’ preconceptions.
The chemistry enjoyed by Les Dennis and Blake Harrison is phenomenal; easy, perfectly paced and entirely believable.
Robins’ sharp and mesmerising play demands attention: the authentic and powerful performances will ensure that it gets it.