The End of History at St Giles-in-the-Fields – Soho Theatre
Wendy and Paul meet in a Church in Soho. A timeless introduction to a timeless tale for a timeless place.
But The End of History, among other things, is essentially about time. Your time, my time, and the time we meet and separate. Wendy is a social worker, barely getting by, doing ‘the right thing’. Paul is a city slicker, earning more than he can spend, ‘doing the all the bad things’. And they meet in a church and have a chat. And then they move on.
Marcelo De Santos’ new play is about gentrification or redevelopment, depending on who you ask. Or about class, or about young and old, such is the pace and rhythm of this exciting, funny, sad, political play. The crux (pun intended) of the script is very much in St Giles church, the centre of North Soho and a locus for change through the history of London. The area around it has been through hundreds of years of culture, development, diversity and drunkenness. Wendy (Sarah Malin) and Paul (Chris Polick) meet there, and the conflict of past and future is made manifest (pun intended).
Wendy hates Paul, Paul is oblivious to Wendy. Paul is in the church for a Grindr date. Wendy is staving off homelessness. De Santos’ script effortlessly binds them together in their distant but connected fates. The success here is in avoiding a simplistic ‘good vs evil’, digestible story about poverty vs riches. We get the sense that Wendy isn’t too badly off- her friend, Louise, is totally loaded; Paul is lonely and unfulfilled by his city job. This gripping 70-minute production finds its strength in connecting two utterly disconnected people, thus escaping predictability.
Except that it doesn’t: the ‘good versus evil with a plot twist (because Paul’s got an STD); the frustrating ‘Kafkaesque’ battles with bureaucracy; the misconceived preconceptions of strangers; the comic jibes at millennials. It all feels totally old: a script performed by two successful white actors to an exclusively white audience, filled with self-congratulatory, anti-establishment jokes, in Soho!
Despite the ironies of the concept, the delivery was faultless. Malin and Polick fill the space (an entire church, mind) with ease; music and chit-chat weave together smoothly; it doesn’t weigh too heavily on nostalgic, ‘better in the olden days’ rhetoric. And it is, despite its predictability, really funny. Malin has real ease in her delivery, telling the audience about herself in a way which suggests we’ve known her all along.
Despite its somewhat smug predictability, The End of History provides some witty commentary on a changing ageless city.
Review by Thomas Froy
She’d seen him before;
pink shirt, dark hair, grey suit… jaw.
Oh yes, she’d seen him before.
He couldn’t quite place her face.
What happens when two totally different Londoners find themselves face to face on the worst day of their lives?
Paul is a gay party boy working in property, Wendy is a single, 50-year-old working in the charity sector. They belong to two different London’s but have one thing in common; they’re both alone in the city.
Staged off-site at St Giles in-the-Fields church in Soho, this specially-created play with music, by High Hearted Theatre in association with Soho Theatre, takes a chance encounter to explore the impact of gentrification on two totally different individuals.
A new play by Marcelo Dos Santos.
Director: Gemma Kerr
Writer: Marcelo Dos Santos
Composer and sound designer: Ed Lewis
Producer: Grace Okereke
Cast: Sarah Malin and Chris Polick
High Hearted Theatre in association with Soho Theatre present
THE END OF HISTORY
A site-specific show at the historic St Giles-in-the-Fields
5th – 23rd June 2018
Please note this production takes place at St Giles-in-the-Fields Church, and tickets are collected there. 60 St Giles High St, London, WC2H 8LG.
Box Office: Tel: 020 7488 0100
Online: www.sohotheatre.com or at www.highhearted.com