A site-specific work, The End Of The History collides two characters in St-Giles-In-The-Fields church. Daniel Perks reviews Marcelo Dos Santos' latest work:

It’s funny how you can walk past such hidden gems when wandering around London. We are so wrapped up in our own heads, so focussed on where we’re going or how long it’s taking to get there, that we fail to stop, stand still and truly look around; fix ourselves to a spot and take in the changing architecture, muse upon the rich and complex journeys of those who have walked upon these streets before us. Some of those buildings are a part of that, a slice of London gone by while still a piece of the London to come – like St Giles-in-the-Fields church, the site of High Hearted Theatre’s latest piece, The End Of History.

The End Of History St Giles-In-The-Fields

Chris Polick (image courtesy of Mike Massaro)

The End Of History is a thought-provoking title – it reminds us of what’s gone before while focussing on the here and now (this is after all, the end of an individual’s history). Marcelo Dos Santos’ work intertwines two contrasting individuals, gradually fusing their stories through music and moment. As Edward Lewis’ composition, a contemporary plainchant peppered with musical theatre motifs, softly echoes through the expanse of this church, Wendy (Sarah Malin) and Peter (Chris Polick) narrate their lives in third person and slowly but surely link their separate pasts to a collective present. They weave through the audience, up and down the nave of the church, which itself acts as a central third character in the narrative. It’s the poignant meeting point where the briefest of connections forever changes the direction in these two seemingly separate existences.

The End Of History St Giles-In-The-Fields

Sarah Malin & Chris Polick (image courtesy of Mike Massaro)

Dos Santos’ text and lyrics contain some cleverly incorporated imagery, drawing parallels between the hustle & bustle of a cosmopolitan city with the calm and serenity of this sacred space. The language is modern and fast-paced, subtly fusing light-hearted topics of dating on Grindr with the more serious health implications that can accompany such flippant sexual encounters. Polick’s portrayal of Paul takes a similar journey – the modern man ignoring his history, suddenly forced to confront mortality. His flashy façade is gradually eroded as time passes; he becomes more aware of the impact of his choices. Like the script, it’s the little details that make this performance inherently watchable.

The End Of History St Giles-In-The-Fields

Sarah Malin & Chris Polick (image courtesy of Mike Massaro)

So too is Malin’s character Wendy. Born and bred in London, she represents the old guard that sees her beloved city change and morph into something no longer recognisable. There’s a beautiful melancholy to her song Strangers In Soho as she charts the breakdown of a relationship, as well as forlornly reflecting on the parallel with feeling out of place in the very area she has lived all her life. Live accompaniment would make this song, and all the others, more impactful – too often the singer is dictated by a pre-recorded track and unable to provided sufficient emphasis or pause at appropriate points.

The End Of History St Giles-In-The-Fields

Sarah Malin (image courtesy of Mike Massaro)

The End Of History in many ways reflects the reality of history itself – there are far more points of non-intrigue than there are moments worth of further study. Gemma Kerr’s direction seems to elongate such protracted periods, a prologue that lasts too long in the production before we get to any snippets that resemble the crux of the matter. The atmosphere feels detached to begin with, an academic analysis lacking in emotion or humanity. As the stories start to converge however, we start to understand the connection with the three characters – two actors and one location. The fog lifts, the choices become clear. It’s a galvanising conclusion that is marred by being blurry for too long.

The End Of History St Giles-In-The-Fields

Sarah Malin (image courtesy of Mike Massaro)

Just as the progress of construction flattens the memories of the past, so too does The End Of History past through its climax towards an inevitable future. Yet while it presents an interesting story and a powerful concept that draws us into such a place, we never feel truly connected to these characters. Maybe it’s because they are the third person until their meeting. Despite the direction that integrates them amid the audience, they are distanced by an emotional fourth wall, one that should be broken down through song but is in fact only strengthened by its interrupting presence.

 

 

★★★☆☆

The End Of History runs at St Giles-In-The-Fields Church until 23 June 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.