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The End of Hope review at Soho Theatre, London – ‘a keen sense of the absurd’

Rufus Wright and Elinor Lawless in The End of Hope at Soho Theatre, London. Photo: Robert Day Rufus Wright and Elinor Lawless in The End of Hope at Soho Theatre, London. Photo: Robert Day
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The lights come up. A woman in a giant mouse costume is furiously riding a prostrate man. They climax, then, in thick Belfast accents, have an absorbing, argumentative discussion about ITV, Catholicism, Tony Blair and more. It can only be a David Ireland play.

With Cyprus Avenue and Everything Between Us, Ireland has earned a reputation as a playwright with an explosive, razor-sharp wit and a keen sense of the absurd. Both are on display again in his gloriously funny new two-hander, The End of Hope.

Dermot (Rufus Wright) and Janet (Elinor Lawless) have just Tinder-shagged. He’s a renowned poet, champagne socialist and high-profile male feminist. She’s a self-conscious, straight-talking shop-worker, who dresses up as a giant rodent just to get laid.

Over a high-powered, hugely entertaining hour, they argue about everything from Ibsen to Big Brother, from New Labour to the Northern Ireland Peace Process. It’s a pillow talk Twitter spat, angry, aimless and amusing in equal measure.

It’s a slick, spry play, not as shocking as Cyprus Avenue, nor as politically engaged as Everything Between Us, but flaunting Ireland’s talents just as well. He writes exquisitely funny, blacker than black dialogue, and squeezes in astute social commentary as he does so.

Max Elton’s bare-bones staging – a co-production between the Soho Theatre and the Orange Tree – is simple and smart, and Lawless and Wright practically sparkle with comic chemistry, but Ireland’s superb, wincingly sharp writing is the star. Let’s hear more from him, and soon.

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David Ireland’s hugely entertaining, wincingly sharp two-hander