Awarded 3 1.2 Stars.
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It’s not the norm for a debut play to open straight into the West End. Then again, this isn’t just any debut play. With Matthew Perry onboard as both playwright and leading man The End of Longing might have received preferential treatment insofar as a West End opening goes, but also carries a certain weight of expectation with it…
…Did it live up to that? Well, yes and no. The storyline is, it must be said, rather thin. The natural comparisons with Friends are not without merit, it’s a play about two sets of best friends (one set male, one set female) who meet in a bar and pair off. Alcoholic Jack (Perry) ends up with Stephanie (Jennifer Mudge) a $2,500 a night sex worker and neurotic Stevie (Christina Coles) is matched with Lloyd Owen’s self confessed idiot Joseph. While there’s plenty of opportunity for a complex investigation of human failings and relationships, in truth the play is a lot more like a sitcom. Fast paced, with punchy dialogue and serious issues The End of Longing does try to delve a little deeper. At times it succeeds. There’s a rather dramatic twist in the second half, an excellent explosion of emotion from Lloyd Owen in a standout performance and a heartfelt, touching monologue about alcoholism from Perry. Despite these odd moments, overall the play feels quite simplistic. The characters each have one particular trait that they announce right at the top of the play and, honestly, neither they, nor their foibles are adequately explored. Each character comes across as a ‘type’ rather than a fully formed human and even the excellent performances can’t quite rise above that.
The dialogue at times was very long winded and over expositional with the actors very rarely getting the chance to express anything through their performances that they hadn’t already told us directly. These gripes aside however it cannot be denied that the play is delightfully entertaining. Perry is an excellent joke writer. The script is funny, really funny, with lots of belly laughs. The relationships between the characters are sweet, with friendships and love taking centre stage and vulnerabilities openly shared. Though his delivery is a little monotonous, Perry is excellent as the charming, needy Jack.
While the fast pace, slick direction, shiny set and constant gags mean this feels more like a live sitcom, for those who want an enjoyable, entertaining, sweet night out, it’s no bad thing.
Review by Lucy Danser.