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The End of History

The End of History, St Giles in The Fields Church – Review

Pros: Strong performances from Sarah Malin and Chris Polik.

Cons:  The hard benches…OK for an hour though.

Pros: Strong performances from Sarah Malin and Chris Polik. Cons:  The hard benches...OK for an hour though. The End of History was developed following an invitation by the Rector of St Giles’ who wanted to illuminate the past and present of the church and its local neighbourhood.  This is done via the two characters, Wendy (Sarah Malin) and Paul (Chris Polik), who reveal their back stories and current circumstances by way of narrative and songs.  They are both Londoners, either by upbringing or choice, with very different lifestyles but both having connections to the church and surrounding area.  Wendy…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A very enjoyable hour learning about two completely different people whose lives happen to converge at St Giles, with some snippets of history thrown in.

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The End of History was developed following an invitation by the Rector of St Giles’ who wanted to illuminate the past and present of the church and its local neighbourhood.  This is done via the two characters, Wendy (Sarah Malin) and Paul (Chris Polik), who reveal their back stories and current circumstances by way of narrative and songs.  They are both Londoners, either by upbringing or choice, with very different lifestyles but both having connections to the church and surrounding area.  Wendy works with the homeless and disadvantaged, Paul in property development.  Both at a crisis point in their lives, they end up at the church at the same time and despite antagonising each other at first, take something positive from the encounter.

The script gradually reveals details of the lives of Paul and Wendy and with that knowledge comes some sympathy with their circumstances.  The characters deliver nuggets of interesting information about the church without it feeling like a history lesson, also drawing attention to the gentrification of this part of Soho and resultant loss of community space and services.  There are references to the building works that you can’t help but notice on the way in, the introduction of chain stores and cafes pushing out more traditional corner shops, and comment about the area’s loss of character.

St Giles itself is atmospheric, a cool and quiet oasis in a noisy city, which goes to explain why Paul and Wendy have ended up there.  Malin and Polik, who both give strong performances, make the most of the space as they move about amongst the congregation, using the pews, pulpit and central aisle.  This non-traditional theatre venue does have some drawbacks though.  Firstly, the speech does sometimes get lost in the space, depending which way the actors are facing, secondly, the benches are hard.  At one point Wendy talks about a friend’s house having a plethora of cushions, which just made me aware of how much I could have done with one at that particular point in time. I noticed a few people with wry smiles at that point.  The lighting is hugely effective and sound effects also good, unless of course there actually were some pigeons flying around the eaves.  The songs are enjoyable in a gentle, pleasant sort of way, and although neither performer has a particularly strong voice, this somehow adds to the charm.

Despite a lot of humour throughout and a fairly upbeat ending, the piece feels a bit melancholic.   A reminder that fast moving cities full of rushing movement are made up of  individuals who may sometimes need support and space for contemplation.

Text and Lyrics:  Marcelo Dos Santos
Director:
Gemma Kerr
Sound Design and Composer: Edward Lewis
Lighting: Pete Ayres
Producer: Grace Okereke
Booking Link:  https://sohotheatre.com/shows/the-end-of-history/
Booking Until: Saturday 23 June 2018

About Irene Lloyd

Currently a desk zombie in the public sector, Irene has had no formal training or experience in anything theatrical. She does, however, seem to spend an awful lot of her spare time and spare cash going to the theatre. So, all views expressed will be from the perspective of the person on the Clapham omnibus - which is what most audiences are made up of after all.