About Time You Saw: The End of LongingBy Gilly Hopper
The One Where Chandler Writes A Play…
American TV star Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing, Friends) has taken on the dual role of writing and starring in the newly opened West End production, The End of Longing. In Perry’s playwriting debut, it appears clear that the actor/first time playwright has stuck to the mantra of ‘write what you know’ while composing The End of Longing. With snappy scenes and quick dialogue, the play hones in on four lost souls, Jack, Stephanie, Joseph and Stevie, linked by their broken lives. In a perfectly fine, if not somewhat tired format, the lives of these four flawed fellows begin to intertwine as strong relationships are forged, tested and mended.
Matthew was last in the West End, in 2003, in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago – also directed by Lindsay Posner, at the Comedy Theatre. Another celebrity to tread the boards of the Playhouse Theatre, also in a David Mamet play (Speed the Plough) was one miss Lindsay Lohan. The Playhouse Theatre seems to have taken fancy to star-driven works in order to ensure bums on seats and average rate theatre. While Perry delivers a pleasing performance as the substance abusing Jack, it is clear from the start that audiences are here more for the Chandler than the Chekov style script. If you’re a Chandler fan, or a Matthew Perry enthusiast, then you will find much to delight in in this sarcastic work; admittedly seeing this likeable actor on stage is probably the play’s main selling point. In a plot that tends to lean rather heavily towards the tribulations of Matthew’s alcoholic past, it becomes difficult to separate the actor from the person, and by association, the play from the playwright. It is a personal project, delved in ego, as Perry seeks to garner praise and pathos from the audience.
Fandom aside, a one-man play this is not. Co-stars Stevie (Christina Cole –The Magistrate, The Lightening Play), Stephanie (Jennifer Mudge – Into The Woods, Dutchman) and Jospeh (Lloyd Owen – Good People, The Bodyguard) add to onstage confusion and comedic moments. LLyod Owen gives a particularly strong performance as the ‘stupid’ Joseph and Act Two brings a lift to the show as the work finally starts to build momentum. Helmed by award-winning director, Lindsay Posner (She Stoops To Conquer, Hayfever), even he could not mold this play into something more than a project of personal exploration. However, the pace and placement of a climactic hospital scene in Act Two does draw the viewer close for a moment, before slowing again as the play looms to it’s all too probable and pedestrian end. In short, The End of Longing is little more than a Chandler Bing-e.
The End of Longing runs at the Playhouse Theatre until 14 May 2016 www.EndofLonging.co.uk