Site-specific theatre done right – High Hearted’s The End of History sits us in the beautiful surroundings of St Giles-in-the-Fields and really makes us think
“Why are we here?”
Marcelo dos Santos’ The End of History is not just performed in the church of St Giles-in-the-Fields but it is set there too, a quiet spot of calm in among the bustling Soho streets. And as Crossrail forces yet another upheaval of the immediate surrounding area, dos Santos and director Gemma Kerr ask us to locate this development in the wider scheme of things, in a history of constant evolution and ponder what might be lost in the process.
This they do by colliding two individuals – charity worker Wendy and Paul, seeking to make his mark in the world of property. They’re both having a shocker of a day – she’s coming out of a long-term relationship and searching for somewhere to live, he’s waiting on some test results and the battery on his phone is going down fast because he can’t quite keep off Grindr. Or Scruff. Or Hornet.
What makes The End of History stand out is the fearlessness with which it has been devised. Wendy and Paul tell their stories separately, often in the third person, sometimes through the medium of song (composer Edward Lewis), entwining personal testimony with historical anecdote and astute observations. The contrast is stark, their experience so diverse but the reminder of the value of a bit of kindness is one which resonates so powerfully.
Chris Polick and Sarah Malin are ideally cast as these lost souls. And there’s so much that’s relatable here – not just the financial cost of renting but the personal toll it can take, those f?!kers who knock into you at the top of the escalator and don’t say sorry, the fact that even as we bemoan gentrification we also enjoy its benefits, that unshakeable sense of feeling entirely alone in one of the busiest cities in the world…
And that sense of history being lost, of being swept along by the tide of cranes and diggers, permeates throughout. Polick and Malin are both beautifully emotive in their performances, mixing pointed humour with the wearied tragedy – Paul’s unveiling of a new luxury housing development called ‘The Rookery’ is counterpointed by Wendy’s revelation that rookery was a nineteenth century term for slum. How quickly we forget, and are forgotten – dos Santos dares us to hope for more.