End of the Pier – An absolutely fabulous joy
In a world where you might think twice about saying boo to a goose for fear of causing offence – especially to geese – Danny Robins’ new play, End of the Pier, is a complete triumph. Anyone who manages to write about President Trump, racism, political correctness, inappropriate humour, diversity, Prêt A Manger, Pilates and Sainsbury’s Good For You couscous salad without being heaped with opprobrium or inducing snowflakes to melt is a genius. And Danny Robins, and End of the Pier is, in my humble opinion, just that.
Avoiding spoilers, End of the Pier tells the story of Bobby (Les Dennis) who was once a household name in comedy with 20 million TV viewers – but now the laughter has faded, due to inappropriate humour in his act being exposed by a Guardian journalist. Resigned to a life of solitude in Blackpool and meagre panto performances to survive, his glory days are behind him. Michael, his son (Blake Harrison) now the nation’s favourite observational comedian, arrives at his door, ostensibly to tell about his marriage to Jenna (Tala Gouveia), a commissioner of comedy at the BBC. But in reality asking for help to save his career, after a shocking incident at the end of the pier with Mohammad (Nitin Ganatra), a Bangladeshi immigrant and aspiring stand-up comedian. Bobby is reluctantly thrown into the limelight once again. A profound and dark question lurks behind the laughs: What if, inside, you’re not the person everyone thinks you are?
Expertly directed by Hannah Price, the performances by this consummate ensemble are magnificent and entirely mesmerising. Les Dennis is fascinating to watch, incredibly believable, vulnerable and ultimately channelling the undoubted realism and experience of the comic - ‘I used to dream of people remembering my jokes. Now I just wish they’d forget.’
|Blake Harrison and Tala Gouveia|
Blake Harrison and Tala Gouveia as the perfect showbiz couple, all couscous and tea without milk, maintain the illusion of perfection in this politically-correct firmament but ultimately betray the shallowness of this seemingly innocent and ultimately dishonest world. Entirely credible performances, dripping in cynicism at their own pretentious and fragile reality.
Nitin Ganatra steals the show with his tour de force performance as the would-be stand-up comic. A wonderfully real, yet frightening, betrayal of a man with a mission. Smashing the fourth wall, intimidating the audience into uneasy submission and ultimately exposing the truth of painful comedy in today’s politically-correct society.
Danny Robins’ End of the Pier is an unnerving, uncomfortable piece of writing, yet utterly fascinating, perceptive, mind-blowingly real and shamelessly irresistible. It should be seen at all cost and deserves a life after this stunning production ends at the Park Theatre.
End of the Pier is playing at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park until 11 August www.ParkTheatre.co.uk