So a couple of weeks ago my lovely friend who lives in London treated us to tickets to see ‘The End of Longing’ – a play conceived by and starring Matthew Perry. The reviews had been mixed and one of my friends warned they heard it was awful but I like to make my own mind up about things and try to avoid reviews like the plague (how ironic as I write this) because I don’t like to have any pre conceptions before seeing/experiencing something. Otherwise you don’t know if what you are thinking is your own feeling, or something subliminal.
That in mind, this does contain spoilers, so I would only advise that you read on if you have already seen it, or you are the kind of person who loves spoilers, you devil you (my aunt is such a person.)
I have to start by saying that the name Matthew Perry is very much the reason this got to the west end. Friends was, and still is, huge (see my previous post about it http://www.lippychick.co.uk/the-one-with-all-the-talk-about-friends/). It’s certainly a creative dream to write something and have it performed on stage (I had this pleasure at University.) Even more luxurious to be the person to star in it too, after all, who knows how to interpret your writing better than you?
I just wish he had been braver. I wish it hadn’t been so predictable. If themes of ‘life is pointless’ etc then where was the moment where life IS displayed to be random and unpredictable and completely unyielding. The play opens with the character of Stephanie, a prostitute, telling us ‘It’s not my dream to work on my back, but then again neither am I happy about the fact we all DIE at the end of our lives!’ Each character is introduced in a snappy way, to give us an insight into their motives, and so that we as an audience don’t have to think too much. We get all four of their MOs in the opening 30 seconds. Fine. It’s just that none of them have a proper story arc. None of them develop. There is no rite of passage, no real suffering. A lot of arguing, a lot of matt pushing his grey hair back and swearing but no epiphanies. The fact that Joseph prays hysterically for his ill and pregnant girlfriend, and she is saved – is Matthew Perry trying to tell us he’s secretly religious, or does he not want to offend anyone ? OR does he really want to believe that there is life after death? (As this is something he is seemingly wrestling with.) The scene where Joseph is praying could have poignant, maybe, but it’s still interjected with jokes when he is ‘talking to God in the church.’ He starts by thanking him for an encounter he had with another woman… it just made it hard to take seriously.
It’s clichéd, it’s cloying. It’s very American.
It didn’t move me, but I really really wanted it too.
Of course Matthew Perry can act. We’ve seen him do it before. He was very convincing as a drunk – I suppose he’s had lots of practice (sorry Matt) and it’s definitely a well observed take on our society – especially the women – we are all neurotic head cases. There’s so much to worry about these days, and modern technology (ie smart phones and social media) haven’t helped one bit. We have all become obsessive, paranoid cluster fucks ‘he hasn’t texted me in 4 hours, what does this mean?!’ And I love the line ‘why aren’t you in therapy? Maybe we should put you in therapy so we can figure out why you aren’t in therapy!’
The writing was really good in some places, like the example above. Other times it was cloying and dragged a little bit.
I was most disappointed that I predicted the whole thing. I would have loved a twist. I also found it strange, that Matt having been an alcoholic in real life, thought it was realistic for his character to declare and successfully quit drink in 30 days (as he promises her character he will.)
And it definitely had far too many ‘fucks’ in it (swearing, not literal fucks although I suppose that would have been entertaining.) To the point where it loses all meaning and you think that it’s a lazy writing device. All the characters swore. There was no differential in terms of their dialogue, which speaks volumes about character, except for the ones they banged over our heads – Joseph is stupid, Stevi is neurotic, Jack’s a drunk, Stephanie has daddy issues.
I’m afraid I found the delivery of Stephanie so sing songey that I found it difficult to connect with her as a human being. She was fine being a prostitute and made loads of money ($2500 per guy, really? Did the customers get a gold model of her vagina at the end?) I think I found her to be the most 2D. And realistically, Stevi, who found Joseph dull and boring, would have settled with him for 2 minutes before it all turned to shit in reality. What her character screamed was desperation and ‘ladies, if he likes you, settle, at least it’s *someone* girls!’ Not such an attractive or realistic prospect.
There were a few moments that made you semi smile, but unfortunately no laugh out loud moments. Lots of ‘Friends’ style devices – leaving a long pause after someone delivers a line and then saying your one worder- ’anyway.’
There was also a lot of waiting for the laughs – which Matt did frequently – and he did get them – people who adored him as Chandler were fawning over him in the front row. Pretty sure he could have dropped a turd on stage and people would have loved it – such is his gravitas and preceding reputation.
I don’t want to completely trash it of course. It was certainly watchable and ticked along. There was potential here. But there was no epiphany, no defining change, no development of character and nothing that made me emote. And it’s very easy to make me emote. I’m a softie. I like to feel when I go to the Theatre. But all I could feel was how hard my seat was, and the legs from the person behind me, pressed into my back.
The end of longing was fine, but it could have been so much more.