World’s End at King’s Head Theatre
It’s 1998 and it’s a dreadfully complicated world. James Corley just doesn’t let us know the extent of it yet. Instead, World’s End, the new play at The King’s Head Theatre, presents simple scenes that stretch out to skillfully confront the past of its characters as they drag behind. In the cramped hallways of the World’s End Estate in Chelsea, mother and son Viv (Patricia Potter) and Ben (Tom Milligan), are greeted by their impossibly helpful neighbours, father and son Ylli (Nikolaos Brahimllari) and Besnik (Mirlind Bega). As they haul storage boxes into the flat, the script masterfully flashes at the depths of the scenes to come and their exploration of war, single parenthood, sexuality and love.
Corley’s writing is the sturdy backbone to the play. It holds up unyielding hopefulness as a shield to the throbbing tragedy trickling into the estate. We follow two single parents finding their way with their young-adult sons in tow. Viv can’t seem to stay in one place long. Ylli and his boy have fled the ongoing atrocities in their home of Kosova. Corley’s finesse at character development allows for the actors to ache and flourish onstage without insinuating judgement.
It’s hard to imagine these actors in the bodies of anyone other than their characters. They trudge so deeply into the hearts of their audience that it’s impossible to believe they aren’t breathing the air from decades ago. Each actor commands the stage without ever usurping their collaborators’ power or comedic delivery. Mirlind Bega as the immigrant son, Besnik, swaggers with a confident charm. Tom Milligan’s frantic presence is endearing as he fanatically shouts about Zelda, his latest Nintendo game. His rants are rich in nuanced subtext as their sweet young love blossoms.
Harry Mackrill’s direction comes alive in the scene transitions. The corridor halls become the walls of the two flats – hardly anyone could feel at home there. The outside world looms inside. Mackrill makes you aware of the spaces smushed together with sound travelling through the paper-thin walls.
The play is a must-see. It’s relatable yet builds characters with unique fears and desires. Ultimately, it’s impossible to not wonder at the double meaning of its title. Is it the world’s end revealing potential new horizons or perhaps, more pointedly, a bleak final close?
Photo: Bettina Adela
World’s End is at King’s Head Theatre from 12th August until 21st September 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.