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END OF THE PIER: Park Theatre, London

Published by: Elaine Pinkus on 17th Jul 2018 | View all blogs by Elaine Pinkus

When does comedy stop being comic? When does humour cross the line to cruelty and victimisation? Sharing a joke unifies us, ties us together and can be joyous. But spare a thought for those who are the butt of those jokes, the scapegoats who dread the next words to be uttered by the teller. In our age of political correctness our attitudes towards comedy have changed moving from the working class stand ups of the 70s and 80s to the acceptability of today’s comedians who are as much reliant on Twitter and social media as they are to live performance.  Perhaps this seems moralistic in concept and certainly our empathy moves with the swing of debate. But do not be put off. Danny Robin’s talents as a playwright, broadcaster and joke teller have given the Park Theatre, London, a delightful play in End Of The Pier with laughs a’plenty and thought provoking content.

Les Dennis, one of the UK’s best known entertainers, is  old-school comic Bobby Chalk, forced into retirement after he and his comic partner Eddie Cheese were exposed for racist indiscretion. ‘People forget all the good stuff ... they just focus in on one ... mistake.’  Widowed Bobby lives alone in a small, dingy house in Blackpool, surrounded by 1960s memorabilia.  His son, Michael, (Blake Harrison, The Inbetweeners), has followed in his footsteps and has become a much loved observational comedian  playing to audiences of 4 million and having a huge Twitter following. Yes, entertainment today relies on the voices of social media where exposure is instant and unforgiving.  And this is where the story lies. Michael has returned home to seek help from his father following a serious indiscretion which, if released onto Twitter, could destroy his career and his personal life. Clearly they have a fractured father/son relationship from which Michael has developed a Jekyll and Hyde persona, with his dark side becoming ever more forceful. His comedy is a mask for his own misdirected prejudices.

Les Dennis and Blake Harrison.jpeg

Les Dennis and Blake Harrison: photograph Simon Annand

Act 1 is a wonderful platform for the superb comic timing of Les Dennis who delivers a string of one liners which has the audience laughing out loud. Yes, the old ones are the best. Just like the seaside postcards, the corny old jokes still have that punch. Have you heard the one about .... There is honesty in Les/Bobby. His time as a comedian is over but he will always be a comic. Not so his son!

Moving to Michael’s plush dressing room in Act 2, we meet Mohammed, the victim of Michael’s serious indiscretion. Here Nitin Ganatra, (Eastenders fame) positively steals the show. Rather than expose Michael to the judgement of the Twitter feed, he demands a slot on his TV show. Here he reigns superb. The honesty of his act where he can laugh at himself, his race, his experiences come to the fore. We are laughing with him and enjoying his openness which is brilliantly funny. A comic and a comedian who allows us to enjoy perhaps the less politically correct humour that so inhibits free speech today. A fantastic 10 minute interlude (I wish there had been more).  Mohammed is the modern day comic with a naturalness that outranks the false and scripted humour of Michael.

 

 Nitin Ganatra 2.jpeg

Nitin Ganatra: photograph Simon Annand

With striking performances by Les Dennis, Blake Harrison, Tala Gouveia and Nitin Ganatra, and supported by Hannah Price’s production team, End Of The Pier is a play worth seeing and is another tick for the Park Theatre, London.

 

Photographs: Simon Annand

END OF THE PIER

Venue: Park200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Dates: 11 July – 11 August 2018

Times: Evenings Mon – Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Thu & Sat 3pm

Parents & Babies: Mon 23 Jul 1pm

Captioned: Fri 10 Aug 7.30pm

Prices: Previews £18.50, Standard £18.50 - £32.50, Concessions £16.50 - £23.50, Child (Under 16) £15 - £20
Booking: www.parktheatre.co.uk / 020 7870 6876

 

*10% telephone booking fee, capped at £2.50 per ticket.

 

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