“It was really, really hard,” he said. “I felt like there was a sort of presumption that we were commercial sellouts — you were aware that you were walking into a town that didn’t like you very much.” But he is also self-critical. “There were things about the show that didn’t work,” he said. “I think that I panicked, because the first previews didn’t work at all, and I didn’t stay true to what I was trying to do. Probably I should have done something more radical and clever.”
‘I was quite seriously ill’
He grew up in Bristol and Newbury, England; his father was a town planner, and his mother worked with adults who had learning disabilities. His parents were politically active Laborites. “We were always going on marches,” he said.
“The end of history …” is about an argumentative family with zealously left-leaning parents who are not happy with their children’s lack of political engagement. Mr. Thorne, who as a younger man was active in the Labor Party but is now disenchanted and uninvolved, called the play “a complicated love note.”
He was, by his own description, an unhappy child, but he was a voracious, and precocious, reader, who tore through so many books that at 8, after reading all the age-appropriate material his mother brought for him on a family vacation, he read her copy of “The Color Purple.”
His parents were also heavily into what the British call amateur dramatics — both of them performed in community theater, and his father wrote pantomimes and directed. Young Jack dreamed of being actor, before concluding that he was not good at it. (Among his last appearances: in the mini-series “This Is England,” which he wrote with Shane Meadows, “I played a part called Carrotbum, so-called because he once had a carrot stuffed up his bum, and Shane said he couldn’t find anyone else lonely or weird enough to do it.”)
He describes writing as an accidental discovery. While a student at Cambridge, he had wanted to direct, but couldn’t afford the stage rights to plays, so he decided to write his own material. “It was drivel,” he said. “I was quite seriously ill, and I was very self-absorbed in my self-pity.”
The illness was diagnosed as chronic cholinergic urticaria, a skin ailment triggered by heat, and at first it was debilitating and defining. “It became an allergy to body movement, basically, because every time I moved, I generated heat, and so I would get a reaction, and it was very, very painful,” he said.