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Phil Willmott

Review: THE END OF LONGING at the Playhouse Theatre

The End Of Longing I make a point of trying to see the positive in everything I review unless the piece is lazy and cynical. THE END OF LONGING is lazy, cynical and cruel. It’s a first play by Matthew Perry who starred in the world’s best loved U.S TV sit-com, FRIENDS, in the 1990s.

FRIENDS concerned a group of wise cracking pals united in their attempts to navigate the absurdities and challenges of contemporary New York life – especially dating. THE END OF LONGING concerns a group of wise cracking pals united in their attempts to navigate the absurdities and challenges of contemporary New York life – especially dating.

In the former the characters were cute and twenty something. In the latter they are handsome and forty something but barely aware that behaviour which was kooky and endearing in their youth now seems unlikely, even creepy in middle age.

The two lead characters are an alcoholic (played by Perry) and his new girlfriend, a prostitute. Obviously not an alcoholic and prostitute in any real-life way, not the type of person you might find stumbling around Camden tube station in the early hours of Sunday morning. No, these are wealthy, successful, witty Manhattan types who hang around in swanky bars, often regrouping there to share a sofa with their... er.. friends.

Perry himself has battled with drink and medication addiction so he’s far better informed than me on what that's like but for most of Act One he portrays being an alcoholic as, improbably, an endearingly roguish life style choice. He does get to shout about it just before the interval and you won’t be surprised to hear he discovers that it would be better not to be an alcoholic in Act Two. The audience were way ahead of you there, Matthew.

A treat for Perry/Chandler fans. But nothing more.

As you would expect from a man who’s spent most of his life working in top TV comedy the jokes and one-liners are laugh out loud funny.

So why is this sit-com, reality-lite, dramatically thin piece playing in a West End Theatre?

Well here comes the lazy, cynical and cruel bit. And it’s not Perry who’s at fault.

The villains are the director and producer who, rather than taking the trouble to find a quality product have pounced on the fact that a celebrity has tried writing a play and swung it straight into full production to cynically exploit his fans.

It’s cruel because if Perry’s playwriting ambitions had been carefully nurtured he could probably learn to be a fine theatre writer, as it stands the reviews for this play, thrust too soon into too high profile a production have been a predictable public humiliation.

On the plus side it is nice to see Perry on stage as the kind of addled middle-aged man his TV persona, Chandler, would probably become.

As you would expect his comic timing is spot on and he plays the pathos simply and truthfully. He is still handsome and he has terrific stage presence.

Overlook the play and it’s still a treat for Perry/Chandler fans. But nothing more.

The End Of Longing tickets