It is exciting and humbling to be at any premiere and this new play written by Jonathan Lewis was no exception, being a major departure from the previous post military themes found in Our Boys and Soldier On.
By Martin Frank
The Be All And End All is set in the home of serving member of parliament Mark (played by Jonathan Guy Lewis) at the time of the Brexit referendum, which coincides with the A Level exams of his son Tom (Matt Whitchurch). It opens a week before Tom’s exams and we also meet his mother Charlotte (Imogen Stubbs) and his girlfriend Frida (Robyn Cara). Despite the lavish furnishings, this is a modern kitchen sink drama typical of the sixties. Tom is the brooding, angry young man trying to come to terms with one of the biggest steps in his life – something most of us with children can identify with.
Tom needs two A stars to get into Cambridge but is it really what he wants? Torn between doing what he wants and what his parents want, Tom is almost voiceless. Getting Tom into Cambridge is the most important thing to his parents, but at what cost? They find themselves crossing the line in terms of helping him succeed, with the big question of the performance being how far should you go? Mark says that there are no victims in him helping his son but he’s wrong – there are and the play itself is full of victims, all four of them carrying burdens that have tied them together.
The performances were of the highest calibre as one might expect, with Jonathan Lewis and Imogen Stubbs playing the parents effortlessly whilst those acting the parts of the children (Matt Whitchurch and Robyn Cara) are certainly names to watch out for in the future. The Be All And End All is funny, witty, angry, and thought provoking, with a script that flows as smoothly as the words from a politician’s mouth. Each character had something difficult to surmount, with Tom’s exams being the latest in a number of struggles that we all have to endure. The play requires all of these tragedies to piece together to justify Mark’s actions as he desperately tries to do what he thinks is best, with it all becoming very fraught at times.
We were pleasantly surprised when the interval arrived because we were so drawn into the play that we had forgotten the time, and the second act even more so. Is this play the be all and end all? We give it two A-stars.