King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 29th August 2019
“throwaway lines elevate an ambitious script, and wittily display Corley’s talents as a playwright”
How much has really changed in twenty years? This extraordinary new play by James Corley takes audiences on a nineties nostalgia trip to remember. As his first full length play, ‘World’s End’ is nothing short of breath-taking, introducing a wonderful foursome of characters all trying to figure out their place in the world of late-nineties London.
Single mum Viv (Patricia Potter) has moved with 19-year old son Ben (Tom Milligan) from Norfolk to Chelsea to start a new life in London. At the World’s End estate, they move in next to the Kosovar Albanian family, Ylli (Nikolaos Brahimllari) and his son Besnik (Mirlind Bega). As Viv finds a new job (and a new man), and Ylli gets more and more involved with the Kosovo War, their respective sons bond over Nintendo video games, and fall in love. It’s only when Viv decides to move in with her new boyfriend that things spiral out of control, as Ben settles into his independence and falls victim to a terrible act of violence.
It all seems so familiar. Foreign nations fighting for autonomy, insurgent armies, refugees escaping conflict, and targeted attacks on minorities. Against this backdrop, Corley reminds us of a time not so long ago where you couldn’t make a call if the internet was on and neighbourhood communities meant something more than just muffled sounds coming through the wall. His hopeful script is tender, funny, and beautiful. Playing ‘Legend of Zelda’, Besnik asks if Link can have sex in Hyrule town. “We can fish?” is Ben’s awkward, terse response. Thinking about moving, Viv looks around her soon-to-be old flat: “Bit like going to the hairdressers, isn’t it; always looks best before it’s cut”. These throwaway lines elevate an ambitious script, and wittily display Corley’s talents as a playwright. My only gripe is Ylli and his slightly muddled patriotic pride. An intriguing character, his story never quite gets the attention it is probably needs to be convincing.
As a Zelda fan, I loved the references to ‘Ocarina of Time’, and Harry Linden Johnson’s sound subtly introduces Zelda themes to underscore the main love story. The cast, directed by Harry Mackrill, give convincing performances. Patricia Potter is an utter delight, effortlessly embodying the stresses of single motherhood and blending it with Chelsea charm. Tom Milligan, playing an awkward and stuttering Ben, gives a grounded performance that keeps you rooting for the main lovers. Mackrill does well with a small space, and his actors seem cool and confident throughout.
I usually never think plays should be as long as they often are. ‘World’s End’ however is one of the few exceptions where it ended too soon. Such interesting characters deserve a bit more space and time to develop, especially with the more political subplots, and although the ending is hopeful, it feels like too little too soon. I would love to see this transfer, as many plays from the King’s Head Theatre do, and for the team to use that as an opportunity to expand the scope of Corley’s script. In its current form though, this is still a real treat of a production, and one not to be missed. Powerful, courageous, and full of wisdom, Princess Zelda would be proud.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Bettina Adela
King’s Head Theatre until 21st September
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: