The End of History review at Tristan Bates Theatre, London – ‘fails at practically every level’

The End of History at Tristan Bates Theatre. Photo: Ana Paganini The End of History at Tristan Bates Theatre. Photo: Ana Paganini
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In 2007 Blair on Broadway garnered much critical acclaim for creators Iain Hollingshead and Timothy Muller. Ten years later they have reunited for The End of History, an ambitious musical journey through the political events of the 20th century as observed by a class of contemporary adolescent schoolkids.

Hollingshead’s book attempts to explore teen relationships with sincerity but fails at practically every level. The cliches pile up like a truncated series of Grange Hill episodes and, to make matters worse, the action pauses occasionally for a song-and-dance number about The Treaty of Versailles or Perestroika. There are also a few narrative musical numbers relating to the students but these are generally forgettable, except for the house party rap, which is excruciating.

At best, The End of History has an identity crisis. It’s trying to be too many things at once and failing at most of them. The characters are two-dimensional and lack credibility, albeit there are some fun moments and a couple of smart one-liners. The diverse musical styles lack individual clarity and the performances are enthusiastic rather than accomplished. The only character who makes any sort of impact is Anya Williams as the beleaguered Teacher, whose Can’t Wait for Summer packs a much-needed punch in the second act.

Jessica Dawes Harrison’s formulaic direction at least has energy, but it seems to be an energy born out of desperation rather than design.  Blair on Broadway may have managed a West End transfer but this piece should never have made it out of the workshop.

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Two or three fairly interesting ideas combine to create a largely forgettable musical