tue 21/08/2018

End of the Pier, Park Theatre review - thought-provoking play about comedy and race | reviews, news & interviews

End of the Pier, Park Theatre review - thought-provoking play about comedy and race

End of the Pier, Park Theatre review - thought-provoking play about comedy and race

Les Dennis is superb as a washed-up comic

Les Dennis and Blake Harrison as a father and son with a fractured relationshipPhotographs by Simon Annand

Les Dennis was once a marquee name on Saturday night television as host of Family Fortunes, but since giving up the light entertainment lark he now plies his trade as an actor, and a very good one at that. If you've not seen it, give yourself a treat and watch his bang-on-the-nose performance as “Les Dennis”, a delusional, whinging has-been, in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's Extras.

Only slightly less meta is his role in Danny Robins' dark comedy, in which Dennis plays Bobby Chalk who was once, with his comedy partner Eddie Cheese, a household name with 20 million viewers. But now the widowed Bobby lives alone and spends most of his days dressed in a slobby dressing gown, his career having never recovered from a racist joke these two end-of-the-pier comedians once told. It was at a time, as Bobby says belligerently, that comedians like him were “the voice of the working class”.

End of the Pier, Park Theatre Bobby's son Michael, the nation’s favourite observational comedian, with whom he has a fractured relationship, arrives unannounced and asks for Bobby's help to save his career. Thus Robins sets up an entertaining and thought-provoking examination of how one mistake can have lifelong consequences, and how for some people multiculturalism is something that happens elsewhere.

Much of the play – which is a touch overlong – works very well indeed as it exposes the transient nature of fame and how morality is rarely a black-and-white issue. Robins also dives into the Jekyll and Hyde nature of some comics – the Mr Nice Guy on TV is a mean sod off it. While it's not Trevor Griffiths' Comedians, it bears comparison with it.

The exchanges between father and son are often laugh-out-loud funny; Robins is a great gag-writer and in Dennis he has a master of comic timing, even if Harrison's stand-up set doesn't fit so naturally.

The revelation here is Nitin Ganatra (pictured above) as Mohammed, a man racially abused by Michael who can end his career in the instant trial by Twitter jury. He's also called on to deliver a comedy routine, which he does superbly; if Ganatra ever gives up the day job....

Michael's TV comedy commissioner girlfriend Jenna (well played by Tala Gouveia despite the thin material) is, however, more a collection of metropolitan media stereotypes than a character, and the revelation of Michael's true politics – what should be a meaty development in a play with some terrifically intelligent ideas – feels rushed.

But James Turner's set efficiently evokes a crummy Blackpool bedsit, Chalk and Cheese's glory days, a comedy stage and a theatre dressing room, Hannah Price's production holds one's attention throughout, and at its heart is a terrific performance by Dennis.

The exchanges between father and son are often laugh-out-loud funny

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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