The End of History at St Giles-in-the-Fields Church
Churches appear to be the new trend in arts venues. St Giles-in-the-Fields is hosting playwright Marcelo Dos Santos’s new site-specific production, The End of History, directed by Gemma Kerr from narrative-focused company High Hearted Theatre.
Protagonists Wendy (Sarah Malin) and Paul (Chris Polick) couldn’t be any more different: their personalities and careers are on opposite ends of the spectrum – Wendy works for a charity, Paul in property. The play begins with the Londoners contextualising the history of the church, when it was a safe haven for the most vulnerable members of society to seek shelter in, as well as a place of worship.
Performing barefoot – perhaps to soften their footfalls – the pair offer long monologues in the third person. Wendy has just left her partner, Dave, and Paul parties hard, enjoying drugs and online dating. The End of History attempts to focus on the “gentrification versus redevelopment argument”, making the audience ponder the show’s setting: a very old church tucked away in the heart of Soho, amidst the bustle of the ever-changing London landscape.
Apart from a few good scenes – Malin playing as Paul’s lover Gilberto, stood in the altar and translating from Portuguese to English, and Polick as Wendy’s friend’s daughter, Amelia the millennial – the play is effectively forgettable, though it does well to incorporate funny one liners and anecdotes. The topical issue of gentrification doesn’t really resonate within the piece, seeming to work only as contextual filler: Paul and Wendy’s situations are not the result of housing prices, but their own personal choices.
These characters make assumptions about each other – something everyone experiences – and the musical drama shines a light on human preconceptions and misconceptions. She refers to him having “entrenched white male privilege”, which is a heated topic for debate in the current times, and Santos pushes these issues to the forefront with his script. Wendy’s declaration that “this isn’t the end of history, it’s just the beginning” is another reminder of our precarious times, if only looking at the Brexit decision, which hasn’t come into full practice yet.
If there’s one thing to take away from the piece, it is to be more affable and less judgemental of others; as cliché as it may well sound, we never really know what people are going through. The way in which Wendy and Paul finally meet and communicate, at a point when they are at their most vulnerable, gives us hope that two such dissimilar individuals can slowly open up to one another, despite their backgrounds.
Photo: Mike Massaro
The End of History is at St Giles-in-the-Fields Church from 5th until 23rd June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.