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Review: The End of Longing, Playhouse Theatre

The adrenaline-fuelled crowd hushed as the house lights dimmed and a centre-stage spotlight revealed Matthew Perry (Friends) in the world premiere of The End of Longing at the Playhouse Theatre,
London. Jack - the alcoholic (Matthew Perry), Stephanie - the prostitute (Jenifer Mudge), Stevie - the uptight romantic (Christina Cole), and Joseph - the stupid guy (Lloyd Owen) introduced themselves and their stories one by one.

An audience, most likely filled with Friends fans, no doubt expected to spend a night watching Chandler Bing in his own stage version of the television show he spent so many years in, however this piece of theatre was brilliant in its own right.

Matthew Perry as Chandler in Friends

The four characters and their intertwining lives seemed reminiscent of the play/movie Closer but with an added layer of hilarity. The acting talent was of the highest standard and couldn't really be faulted. The roles could have been played as hyperbolic caricatures in a wacky sitcom - instead, the cast brought a real depth, honesty and vulnerability to these characters whilst inspiring fits of laughter amongst the audience. The script was witty and steered clear of slapstick or cheap laughs, in favour of intelligence and natural comical exchanges.

The set glided in and out of place, providing the various locations and making good use of the space. The intimate setting and direct addressing of the audience, brought us into the story, involving us to the point where we couldn't help but feel everything the characters felt.

After drawing the audience in and almost even giving us several roles in the plot, the lighthearted and fun atmosphere took a sudden dive. It was as if we were all in this together; members of the audience sporadically sniffled and wiped their tears away, staring intently, begging for a happily ever after.

In the midst of the characters confronting problems, struggling and confiding in the audience, Perry gave a moving monologue; such a heartfelt soliloquy sounded like it had been born in truth - as if he'd spoken those words before and gone through those emotions in his personal life.

The play took an odd turn with the introduction of an out of place contemporary dance duet. Was it supposed to be funny? Moving? I couldn't say. It didn't last long and soon, we were back to business.

As the performance came to an end and cast received standing ovations, I immediately wanted to watch it again. (Going to need the team to record the play so I can own it as my new favourite movie!)

The audience were truly made to fall in love with these characters as they took us on their journey... even an overly critical theatre graduate couldn't find flaws. Theatrical brilliance!

The End of Longing is playing at the Playhouse Theatre, London. Booking until May 14 2016. Get your tickets now! (Tickets available via the ATG website).
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