The End of History
St Giles-in-the-Fields Church
Reviewed – 8th June 2018
“predominantly the writing is beautiful, lyrical and deeply human”
Paul smashes things, the city, the weekend, avocados. He works in marketing for a property development firm. London is a choice Paul made – he chose to move here and so he believes he has a greater claim to it than those who were simply born here. There are strangers in him though, Matt, Mark and Mike, the names he alternates between for Grindr hookups, and on certain mornings coffee menus look like hieroglyphics. Wendy has lived in London all her life. She is an art therapist working with alcoholics and homeless people. She carries a suitcase and a Sports Direct bag filled with possessions belonging to her ex-boyfriend. She might be going to Seville, maybe. They meet in St Giles Church, where the site-specific production is also performed. She is here for peace and quiet, he won’t stop checking his phone. She recognises him from when he knocked her bag over on the tube escalator this morning. He seems barely conscious of her existence.
As we learn about the two very different lives that have lead this pair to the same place, a narrative of disconnection becomes, at last, a story about connections made between people in the most unexpected of places. Two personal stories are contextualised by vital discussions about gentrification, homelessness and class. The characters are well-crafted, clearly defined, and delivered by equally strong performances from Sarah Malin as Wendy and Chris Polick as Paul. Polick’s performance is layered and moving, whilst Malin brings a playfulness to the script. This is a well balanced duo.
The majority of the piece is delivered in an unusual third person, with each actor doubling as the characters in the other’s life – distinctly different characters but never overdone. These moments of doubling, coupled with the moments of direct interaction, are some of the strongest of the show, and a little more focus on developing or extending these points could create a more balanced whole. The third person style takes a little longer to really engage with making for a slow start, and at points, the writing tries to do too much, it spills over with words. The epithet, “show, don’t tell” is applicable here. But predominantly the writing (by Marcelo Dos Santos) is beautiful, lyrical and deeply human, and the third person style seems to work more and more effectively as the production progresses. The gradual release of information, the witty grasp of language and the deeply moving trajectory are a credit to the quality of both the production’s writing and execution. Director Gemma Kerr has the actors utilising the whole space, delivering lines from different pews, from the pulpit even, which works really well.
The moments of music, composed by Edward Lewis are Sondheim-esque, talk/sung at points. The music is undoubtedly beautiful but these are not my favourite moments of the play – in fact the points where the actors speak over music chime more with me – but they do work and seem particularly appropriate in the church setting. Unfortunately Malin’s vocal capability is not quite up to some of the higher melodies, and these moments do take us out of the world of the play.
Some development is required for this piece to reach its full potential, but ‘The End of History’ is still a moving and powerful story, tender and personal, thought provoking in its social context.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Mike Massaro
The End of History
St Giles-in-the-Fields Church until 23rd June