Theatre Review: End Of. (Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney) ★★★1/2

Ash Flanders’ one-person show, End Of., is a mood. It’s a bizarre ride through death, grammar, and bad acid trips. I guess I’m trying to say that End Of. is a bit messy and incoherent, but then who said the destination had to be as good as the journey anyway?

A succession of stories both funny and sad, along with the plain old weird, start to flow. As Ash begins his story in a boring day-job as a legal transcriptionist (that’s the person who transcribes police interrogations and the like) he wonders where his career as a playwright has gone wrong. Instead of finding fodder for own stories, he’s discovered the “banality of evil” is also incredibly pedantic. And like a dream that rolls from moment to moment, suddenly the audience is in a very different place.

Ash Flanders. Photo by Brett Boardman. Courtesy of Griffin Theatre Company.

So begins an emotional striptease as Ash delves into his own narcissism, insecurity, and relationships. Yes, it’s therapy on stage that you’ve paid to watch, but Ash dresses it all up to put on a show of it and that show revolves around one person. No, not Ash, but his mother Heather.

Yes, it’s a gay man putting on a one-person show about his relationship with his mother; a recipe for self-indulgence if ever there was one. But Flanders is a better writer and performer than that. Between anecdotes of parental hilarity, there are moments that lovingly poke fun at things like corporate vs. artistic life, the misadventures of youth, and the idiosyncrasies of family. There’s something for everyone, but definitely more to identify with if you’ve ever worked in the theatre.

Ash Flanders. Photo by Brett Boardman. Courtesy of Griffin Theatre Company.

Director Stephen Nicolazzo keeps things moving with a range of well presented vignettes and props. Small movements set the scene and mark the transitions between stories. Nathan Burmeister’s set is surprisingly revealing for the small space; both luxuriously textured and somehow drably corporate at the same time, as the story requires.

Ash Flanders. Photo by Brett Boardman. Courtesy of Griffin Theatre Company.

This is drag without the makeup, gowns, heels, or tucking. It’s camp, fun, a bit bonkers, and somehow more revealing the more artifice there is. The fact that the show doesn’t really have an ending—ironic considering the title—or an overarching point, doesn’t mean it’s not fun. It feels like the audience is actually at the pub with Flanders while he starts to regale the table with story after story before we all stumble home wondering where the time went.

Somehow Ash Flanders manages to get upstaged in his own one-person show by the stories about his mother; who is still alive and kicking by the way, this isn’t some posthumous examination from a grieving son. Gay men and their larger than life mothers, there’s always material there worth mining, ammirite? It’s a cliché for a reason!

By Chad Armstrong

End Of. written and performed by Ash Flanders plays at Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney until Saturday, November 5th 2022. Click here for more details and to purchase tickets.

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