Review: End of Longing @ The Playhouse Theatre ***

There have been a few less than favourable reviews of this production. And given my rather scathing review of The Young Vic’s Macbeth, some of you may be waiting for an awful pun: e.g. in the world of the play, it lasts about 10 months. Fortunately for us, the End of Longing for it to be over comes after just two hours.’

But contrary to a few others, I actually quite enjoyed the show. Overall, it’s a well balanced play with some great moments, just let down by bad pacing.

1
Christina Cole as Stevie, Lloyd Owen as Joseph, Matthew Perry as Jack, and Jennifer Mudge as Stephanie.  Photograph: Helen Maybanks

In Matthew Perry’s debut as a playwright on the London stage, he does admirably. There are a slew of one liners throughout, all which get a great response from the audience. There are some really great ones which have you rolling in the aisle, the hot towel analogy for one. At points, a few of the lines feel forced and artificial, the nicknames and over repetition come to mind. But the moments where Perry really shines as a writer are the more introspective ones, musing on religion, life itself and alcoholism. It’s hard to separate Perry from the subject, but that’s what makes it so effective. It’s emotionally true, raw and the way he talks about this subject and delivers it are brilliant.

3
Matthew Perry as Jack and Lloyd Owen as Joseph. Photograph: Helen Maybanks

My only other critique would be the pacing, which may be a reflection of a London audience than anything else. The first act is made up of short scenes and when I say short, I mean short. Some were only three minutes. I think it’s because we’re more accustomed to longer scenes in theatre. This format was more reminiscent of TV, jumping between scene and scene, like Eastenders. Or Friends. But while TV jumps seamlessly from scene to scene, we’re forced to sit through clunky and unnecessary set changes. This is only made worse considering the sets themselves are hardly worth changing, so uninspiring is the set design. The pacing though is much better in the second act though, allowing for more introspective moments to be properly savoured.

2
Matthew Perry as Jack, and Jennifer Mudge as Stephanie. Photograph: Helen Maybanks

Perry commands the stage and the laughs as alcoholic but not so anonymous Jack, bringing honesty and emotional truth to the role. Jennifer Mudge’s Stephanie is strong but ott at points, though that could be characterisation and writing. Christina Cole’s best friend Stevie is one of the more realistic characters, and Cole brings warmth and humour to the role. Finally Lloyd Owen’s Joseph is a likeable and brings the laughs with great comedic timing, though is able to play it more subtly in the second act.

Verdict: an interesting piece of new writing from Perry, but one hampered by pacing. You’ll probably come for the laughs in Act 1 and leave talking about Act 2.

The End of Longing is playing until 14th May 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre. For more information or to buy tickets, visit the website.

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