The End of History is billed as “a moving and funny site-responsive play with music which uses a chance encounter to explore the impact of gentrification on two radically different individuals”. Paul works in property, is gay and something of a party animal. Wendy is single, in her fifties and is employed in the charity sector. They exist in two different worlds, yet they both live in London and both are lonely. When they bump into each other they discover that for different reasons they are each having a bad day; possibly the worst of their respective lives.
Evenly matched performances in competence of narrative delivery
There is no complexity in this storyline, which, on the contrary, is plainly set out. Its development remains mostly flat with the two characters speaking of themselves in the the third person, until the play’s denouement. This late flash of realism is warming and heartfelt, giving them the opportunity to finally relate to each other on a level of sincerity, understanding and compassion. Both Sarah Malin and Chris Polick seem more comfortable in this style of theatre, bringing depth that is missing in the rest of the play.
Together, they give evenly matched performances in competence of narrative delivery and in handling the overwritten script of Marcelo Dos Santos. They also jointly face the various hurdles presented in other aspects of the production. Comfortable on a traditional stage or in front of a camera, Gemma Kerr’s direction often seemed to leave them lost in the spacious chancel of St Giles-in-the-Fields. Dealing with the acoustics of the church without microphones was clearly a challenge, not least in the songs, with neither having a voice that could adequately match the demands of the music and the setting. Consequently, Ed Lewis’s appropriate and original music received a less than fair treatment
The play was developed in response to an invitation from St Giles’ Rector, Alan Carr, who believed that a dramatic exploration of the region’s past could perhaps inform the present. He might well be disappointed. While this thinking has considerable potential it is not realised in The End of History. There are historical references at various times and a lively song about the days when this part of London was known as the Rookery; an area that went from being very desirable to one of the most notorious parts of the capital and that has risen again. The individual stories of Paul and Wendy could be told without any of this and so it is that the work lacks a clear focus and intention. The drawn out exploration of Paul’s health issues provides another facet to the play but seems dated and adds nothing new to the topic.
There is a wealth of historical material from the life of St Giles himself, patron saint of beggars and lepers, to the Great Plague and the Great Fire and not least Hogarth’s inclusion of the church in his famous Gin Lane that might have informed the exploration of gentrification and made this play more profoundly “site-responsive”, but the tale of Wendy and Paul does not rise to the occasion.