Theatre review: End of

A funny-sad monologue about jobs and family, ageing and mortality.

Part confessional, part stand-up cabaret, End of begins as Ash Flanders, our host, details his fall from grace as a creative by having to take a day job as a legal transcriber in a dystopian open plan office. The context of Ash’s ‘itemised, atomised and metricised’ workday, and the need to precisely capture the irritating mundanities inherent in a police interrogation room, is the pivot for Ash to interrogate the inscriptions from his own life events.

What unfolds is a series of poignant, acutely observed personal memories, from Ash’s early years in a wildly dynamic family to his outlandish cut-price adventures in independent theatre extravaganzas.

The set design (Nathan Burmeister) is constructed around tropes of the office, including cardboard boxes, a wastepaper basket, a water cooler, a chair, and an ashtray, which, as the play develops, get re-used to imagine everything from an acid trip in a disused warehouse to a cruising yacht in the Greek islands.

Early on, we learn that the family’s habit of laughing at others is a sign of ‘great breeding’. Ash recounts how seeing his mother possessed by laughter was a thing of beauty and vows to master this devilish skill and claim his rightful spot in the family hierarchy of debauched humourists.

Initially, these absurdist tales seem disconnected, stream-of-consciousness stand-up, but gradually the play’s deeper themes emerge. The intelligent wit of the script, and Ash’s vivacious on-stage persona, never let the material drift into indulgence or sentimentality. Make no mistake; this is one funny show. What makes it compelling as a piece of drama, is Ash’s willingness to take risks with the material and himself as a performer and eschew the consummate ease he has as an entertainer with stories of vulnerability, selfishness, and shame, in the face of confronting the realities of his mother’s terminal decline.

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These fragilities are underscored by beautifully subtle sound design (Tom Backhaus) and underpin Ash’s multiple realities as the play’s character, the writer, and the performer.

The transcription conceit is revisited towards the end of the monologue when Ash begins to come to terms with the finality of his mother’s mortality. And by way of holding onto something, he finds himself recording every little thing his mother says, and obsessively notating the anecdotes as perfectly as the incomplete sentences of an inarticulate suspect.

End of is a gem of a performance, ideally suited to the intimacy of Griffin’s Stables Theatre. Fierce, funny, and poignant – it doesn’t disappoint.

End of
Written and performed by Ash Flanders
Griffin Theatre
DirectorStephen Nicolazzo
Set & Costume Designer: Nathan Burmeister
Lighting Designer: Rachel Burke
Sound Designer: Tom Backhaus
Stage Manager: Jen Jackson
Tickets: $38-$62

End of will be performed until 5 November 2022.

Michael Balfour is a Sydney-based theatre researcher and practitioner.