Train journeys and station tea rooms have long been a classic setting for fiction and film, bringing strangers together, often leading to murder or an adulterous love affair.
This sharply-observed, intimate drama is set on a platform of the London Underground. A teenage girl in a (mind the) Gap sweatshirt and jeans, mobile in hand, slouches on a long steel bench; a smart, business-suited young man arrives and sits down beside her.
A Tannoy announcement informs passengers, “the 12.03 train to Richmond will be delayed by approximately 14 minutes”.
“Bloody Trains” he says, smiling at the girl, wanting to assure her that he is a nice guy and safe to be around at midnight. She hardly acknowledges him and keeps her distance, “I don’t normally speak to strangers”. But as it’s boring waiting for the tube and Tom is friendly, they begin to chat.
In brief, he has recently arrived from Cornwall to start a new job in a bank but it’s all very strange and not the dream move to London he had envisaged. Marley explains that she should be away travelling but her doctor would not allow this without revealing why: “They don’t prepare you for adulthood. I feel scared waiting to get older.”
As they wait, a series of flashback scenes neatly dramatises their stories and memories. At a takeaway, Tom complains that he hates the city, but Chef Kevin cheers him up with a wise quote by George Eliot, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been!”.
Marley sees Nina, a therapist to discuss her eating disorder, an invisible mental illness unlike a broken leg. While Tom recalls carefree times in Cornwall, Marley thinks about the happy, hopeful summer of 2019 making gap year travel plans to Asia with her school friends. (Co-Writer, Emilie Clark’s personal experience of anorexia uses verbatim extracts from her diary for the authentic characterisation and narrative).
“The 12.03 train to Richmond is delayed for a further 12 minutes.”
For contrasting reasons, they share a feeling of loneliness but have the same solution, “I walk, walk, and walk” to see the sun in the sky, a moment of stillness to relieve stress and anxiety.
As their conversation develops, Tom clearly wants to help Marley, asking her about her illness and therapy – ‘I just wanted to be slim, food is seen as so simple.’ In his own quiet way, Tom is also struggling, ‘how hard is it to be happy?’ - and understands the painful process of growing up, being independent and coming of age.
“The 12.03 train to Richmond is delayed by another 4 minutes.”
"The End of the Line" is like a modern, Generation Z, reimagination of the romantic film “Brief Encounter” as experienced by two lost, lonely, disillusioned young people, written and performed with extraordinary maturity, heartfelt honesty and compassion. Perhaps there is light at the end of the dark tunnel.
6 -16 August 2021 @ 12.15.
Ticket prices: £8 / £6