End of the Pier
Reviewed – 16th July 2018
“provocative in challenging our perceptions on censorship and political correctness“
‘All comedy needs a victim’. This well-known adage is one that is repeated constantly and forms the focal argument for new black comedy End Of The Pier, a play that centres on the often contradictory lives of comics. Making someone laugh should be a joyous action, yet, when it is part of a huge money making business, where your jokes and reputation are under constant scrutiny, it can be rather humourless. Thought-provoking yet highly entertaining, End Of The Pier offers an insider look into how far some will go to earn the last laugh.
Bobby (Les Dennis) used to be a household name. As one half of the once much loved comic double-act, Chalk and Cheese, Bobby helped champion the voice of the working-class, bringing it to the forefront of TV viewing. As years went by, so the tastes and ideas on comedic acceptability changed, leaving Bobby behind, insignificant and lacking laughs. Faced with a lonely life of solitude – and the odd bit of panto – in walks Michael, (Blake Harrison) the nation’s current favourite comedian. He is in trouble, and desperately needs Bobby’s help to try and save his career. Whilst Bobby is being thrust back into the world of showbiz, the darker side of stand-up comedy rears its nasty head, bringing to question, what happens when, deep down, you’re not the type of person everyone thinks you are?
End Of The Pier’s playwright Danny Robins is no stranger to the comedy circuit. He learnt his craft as a stand-up, before turning more behind the scenes, writing jokes for some of the UK’s most well known comedians. His in-depth personal experience provides an authentic depiction of that world, within the play. Not to mention, having Les Dennis on board, whose own life has, in many ways, chartered a very similar path as that of his character.
Robins’ fascination with the evolution of comedy, as well as, dissecting the fundamentals behind why we laugh, comes across clearly. Bobby and Michael are from completely different eras. Where the first half of the play distinguishes their differences, the second half blurs lines, revealing how many of the outdated beliefs and prejudices of yesteryear are still highly present. We have only learnt to suppress them. Robins sophisticatedly offers arguments and social commentary that will play on your mind for days after seeing the production.
The cast give well-rounded performances, with particular mention of Blake Harrison (of The Inbetweeners fame), whose change from Mr Nice Guy to Most Reviled is quite the turnaround. The naturalistic set that has such details as a working kettle and half-eaten biscuits, keeps to the authentic tone established.
End Of The Pier is provocative in challenging our perceptions on censorship and political correctness, yet successfully achieves a nuanced balance in still being amusing and accessible. A must-see if you like your laughs with a touch of intelligence.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Simon Annand
End of the Pier
Park Theatre until 11th August