Off the Endz is a project I started in 2007, after the first run of Gone Too Far!. I remember sitting in Dominic Cookes office, he asked me what I wanted to write a...… Read more
David, Kojo and Sharon grew up on a London estate. Now in their mid 20s, they’re eyeing another kind of life. But how do you choose the right path when temptation lies around every corner? If your emotional or financial debt is sky high, how do you buy your way out?
Bola Agbaje’s smart, savvy second play for the Royal Court asks whether being out of the system might be just as good as being in it.
Bola Agbaje came through the Royal Court’s Critical Mass programme. Her debut play Gone Too Far! premiered at the Royal Court in 2007, and won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement and a Most Promising Playwright nomination at the Evening Standard Awards 2008. Her other plays include If Things Were Different, In Time and Anything You Can Do for Soho Theatre. Most recently Detaining Justice opened as part of the Not Black and White season at the Tricycle in November.
Read the article in which The Independent recently called Bola one of the ‘brightest new stars to watch out for in the new year’.
Read this interview with Ashley Walters in Great British Life, about acting and the play.
Age guidance 14+
Running time 1hr 10mins approx, no interval
Select a Date
Dates in February
|Thu 11 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 12 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 13 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sun 14 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Mon 15 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Tue 16 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 17 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 18 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 19 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 20 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sun 21 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Mon 22 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Tue 23 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 24 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 25 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 26 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 27 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sun 28 Feb 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
Dates in March
|Mon 1 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Tue 2 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 3 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 4 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 5 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 6 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sun 7 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Mon 8 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Tue 9 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Wed 10 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Thu 11 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Fri 12 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
|Sat 13 Mar 2010||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs|
Sold out Performances
- This production is now sold out.
Beware old friends dealing drugs and dissatisfaction 4 stars The Guardian, Michael Billington, 20.2.10
Bola Agbaje has written a modern morality play. What she is attacking, in this 80-minute piece, are the self-delusional dreams of criminalised black youth. And, even if her play is sometimes overly direct, Agbaje writes with the clarity, economy and street-savvy that marked her debut, Gone Too Far.
She presents us with a jarring triangular relationship. Kojo, a corporate suit, and his partner Sharon, a nurse, are aspirational, young, black, planning a family and looking for a mortgage. Their lives are disrupted by the arrival of an old friend, David, just out of jail. Disdaining their bourgeois lifestyle, while battening on their hospitality, he treats work as a four-letter word and sets up as a drug-dealer. As well as driving a wedge between the couple, David becomes the fatal tempter who tries to seduce the debt-ridden Kojo with the prospect of quick money and a life of freedom.
At times Agbaje hammers her points home and is evasive on details: she never, for instance, explains Kojo’s exact occupation. What she does very effectively is de-glamorise the romantic myth of the freebooting outsider. David has charm but is also a blatant chauvinist who insults a female secretary, behaves arrogantly to a jobcentre clerk and treats Sharon as a domestic slave. With great skill, Agbaje also shows the corrupting effect of male bonding in that Kojo increasingly allies himself with David.
As a moralist, Agbaje hits her target dead centre. In the play’s best scene, she shows how David discovers that his old drug-dealing patch is now the property of terrifying 10-year-olds. And behind the play lurks the idea that young black, high-yers, such as Kojo and Sharon, are caught in a pincer-trap: in a white-created recession, they are the most vulnerable yet also feel a debt to the estate mates who shared their poverty.
Agbaje resolves the dilemma by pinning her faith, somewhat unfashionably, in the solid virtues of work and family. She is aided by Jeremy Herrin’s fast- moving, well-acted production, played out against a spartan, white-walled design by Ultz. Ashley Walters endows David with enough charisma to explain his friends’ concern, Daniel Francis brings out the spiritual weakness of the success-driven Kojo and Lorraine Burroughs exudes angry resilience as Sharon. And although the members of the gang are not individually credited, the gun-toting 10-year-old leader is a potent reminder of Agbaje’s gift for telling uncomfortable truths.
Captivated by ex-con’s tale 4 stars The Independent, Paul Taylor, 23.02.10
There are “destination restaurants” that you’d go well off-route to eat at. By the same token, there are “destination dramatists”, whose work you would go out of your way to see. After plays at the Royal Court and the Tricycle that showcased her serious gifts, Bola Agbaje is one such. She follows up now with Off the Endz, a piece that illustrates her extraordinary natural talent for blending penetrating moral insight, razor-sharp awareness of the zeitgeist and a lovely mischievous wit that is prepared to go off-message in order to be artistically on-song. It’s a mark of this that this new piece manages to be defiantly funny, even while sending out the unfashionable message that, however rotten society may be, it’s no use blaming it for all the frustrations of your own life. You have to take personal responsibility for your own welfare.
Off the Endz is a spirited re-working of the released-prisoner form of play. A newly liberated con trying to adjust to a society that may have changed beyond recognition during his (or her) time in clink offers a handy means whereby a dramatist can magnify for the audience the strains of contemporary living and the recent shifts of political mentality. One thinks of the unreconstructed socialist who emerges (somewhat improbably vacuum-fresh in his old beliefs) in Mark Ravenhill’s Some Explicit Polaroids, only to discover a world in which addictions have replaced the old ideological faiths – a fact that enables one to date the play as pre-9/11.
Agbaje’s analytic grasp can embrace the global – Detaining Justice, her recent play at the Tricycle was a wonderfully humane, humorous and mordantly indignant dramatisation of the dilemmas and difficulties inherent in asylum-seeking. In Off the Endz, the canvas may be somewhat smaller, but there’s a strong sense that the difficulties experienced by these quirky, beautifully realised individuals are symptomatic of problems that ramify out into a world much wider than the London where they live. This impression is enhanced by Ultz’s rather abstract outer design for Jeremy Herrin’s expertly acted production which plants the interior action in a soulless, lunar landscape of graffitied-over corrugated-iron walls – the scrawl standing out toothpaste-white again a neon-like lime green.
Ashley Walters is a dab hand at playing the kind of incorrigibly cocky but also rather sexy young man that a woman might want to both slap down hard and then snog. He brings this ability to the role of David, a newly released 26-year-old black prisoner who wastes no time reasserting his serene chauvinism and his parasite’s “charm”. The trouble is that Kojo (the excellent Daniel Francis), his bosom brother-in-arms is now a dad-to-be in a job with a suit, living in a rented flat with the lovely pregnant Sharon (the enchanting Lorraine Burroughs) who was once David’s squeeze. They are trying to buy their own home, but that depends on a credit rating that is liable to slump to rock-bottom when Kojo, without telling Sharon, is laid off. When they were boys, David would steal state-of-the-art trainers. Kojo would save for them to the point where they were out of date by the time he got to wear them. But with debts spiralling, will Kojo be able to resist the drug-dealing David’s philosophy. And what will happen if the rival on their patch turns out to be a gun-wielding, conscienceless boy of 12?
The play is very funny as well as disturbing alert to the ways in which the world would be full of strange surprises for David, such as the huge plasma television that suddenly switches itself on because of SkyPlus. There’s a peach of a scene between him and a sorely tried but hilariously firm, fair and unavailing lady at the job-seekers’ office who turns out to be as quirkily humane as she is physically hefty. Another ace play from Agbaje.
Star role for responsibility in drama of drugs and guns 4 stars The Times, Benedict Nightingale, 22.02.10
Not long ago the Royal Court was the centre of victim drama. And not long ago the subject matter of Bola Agbaje’s new play would have come across very differently. After all, it involves a black couple desperate to leave their sink estate and raise a baby in a safer place, only to be thwarted by escalating debts, the arrival of a needy friend who has been in prison, and gun-toting teenagers. Society must be the villain, mustn’t it?
Not according to Agbaje, who impressed us in 2007 with Gone Too Far!, a sharp, quirky portrait of black-on-black conflict on a similar estate. True, she takes a dim view of the credit-card culture that has left Daniel Francis’s Kojo floundering and, presumably, of the recession that loses him his office job; but the excuse offered to him, that its harder for people like us, is promptly rejected. Indeed the plays key word, repeated by Lorraine Burroughs’s Sharon, who is Kojo’s wife and a hard-working nurse, is one not popular these days: responsibility; living within the law, caring for your nearest and dearest, and not offloading blame on your white fellow citizens or anyone else.
Is it reactionary to find this refreshing? Not after youve encountered Agbaje’s most vital character, Ashley Walters’s David, the friend who has emerged from jail with his sense of entitlement raring to go. He attacks the receptionist at Kojo’s office as an ugly monkey for resisting his passes. He maddens Sharon by lolling in her living room, drinking beer, ordering her to clear up the empties and, when she won’t, telling Kojo he’s got to master his uppity woman. He also rejects ordinary jobs as beneath him – “Im not the ‘flippin’ burger’ kinda guy” – and starts a legitimate business: selling drugs.
With Walters bringing his chunky charisma to the role, this becomes a devastatingly believable portrait of a mindset thats at once outrageous, frightening and hilarious. When David proudly compared himself to Al Pacino’s Scarface, whom he thinks a real person, I thought some of the young blacks in the audience would kill themselves laughing. But neither they nor anyone else laughed when a tiny hoodie suddenly appeared at Kojo’s door to try to kill a man who had been dissing him and stealing his trade.
Agbaje’s ending is a bit wishful, but also ominous. She doesn’t sentimentalise even Sharon, who talks constructively but spends destructively, or pass easy judgments even on David, whose voracious self-belief will clearly ruin him. At just 29, Agbaje is a writer with a terrific future.
Related News & Blog Posts
The Metro conducted an interview with playwright Bola Agbaje. Follow the link and read about Bola and her new play Off the Endz currently showing at the Royal Court. … Read more