Pros: An energetic cast does its best with some good ideas.
Cons: Its writing and music, for the most part neither funny or memorable, let this show down.
Written by Iain Hollingshead, a history teacher at a North London school, The End of History is a musical that deals with a group of rowdy, pubescent and angst-ridden teenagers preparing for their history GCSE exam. The teacher is at her wits’ end, dealing with every type of difficult student from annoyingly swotty Beth to moody, drug-dealing Rachel, as they fall in and out of love, bicker and ask stupid questions. Contrasted with this rather sitcom-like scenario are the musical numbers the cast break into every so often. These relate important events in 20th century history in a pastiche of a musical style associated with that time.
Unfortunately, what could have a been a very funny and clever piece is neither of those things. The transitions from dialogue to song are sudden and clunky, the humour that this show so desperately needs is missing or never reaches the audience, and it is clear that the actors struggle to imbue the rather cringey text with good characterisation.
The best that can be said for the young cast is that they take obvious joy in performing and have energy to spare. However, the music sits strangely in their vocal ranges and their want of vocal technique and projection results in the audience, sat just feet from them, missing half the words. Of course, the band at the back of the room, which plays far too loudly for such a small space, doesn’t help. The music itself is a strange mix of clichés and bizarre harmony. Like the rest of the show, it suffers from a lack of humour and memorableness.
When arriving at the Tristan Bates Theatre, it will excite theatre nerds like me that the front of house area looks like a backstage area – to others, it will still be relaxed and inviting. The blackbox theatre the audience then enters is compact, sparsely decorated with educational posters and some school graffiti, and rather like many an Edinburgh Fringe venue. Perhaps The End of History would fare better at the Festival, but even there it would be reminiscent of the type of bad school play one might find put on at the institution in which this musical is set.
Book and lyrics: Iain Hollingshead
Music: Timothy Muller
Director: Jessica Dawes
Lighting designer: Sally McCulloch
Booking until: 2nd December
Booking link: https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-end-of-history