When you’ve starred in a show like Friends, it’s inevitably difficult to separate the actor from the character, and so the name Matthew Perry might not mean as much to you as say, Chandler Bing. Perry, who stared as the comical Chandler, makes his West End debut both penning and staring in The End of Longing, though Friends memories are evidently not forgotten from the robust round of applause the moment Perry walked on stage.
The End of Longing focuses on two sets of friends whose lives become entwined one night in a bar, taking them on a journey of love as they look for meaning in their lives.
As a four-piece it works really well, with each character given their time and place to tell their story. Strangely, I found that Perry’s script was written in such a way that both female characters – Stephanie (Jennifer Mudge) and Stevie (Christina Cole) – had much stronger lines throughout the play than Jack (Perry) and Joseph (Lloyd Owen), who only seemed to come into themselves in a strong way towards the end. There was a greater depth and vulnerability to the female characters and both acted so superbly I was drawn to them even more.You’d be forgiven for thinking that Perry has penned in Jack an older, alcoholic version of Chandler, because there are a number of elements in Jack’s character where you really see him come through. Though of course, having such a set knowledge of Chandler’s character, I could’ve just been seeing what I wanted to see.
The play’s strength was the way in which it looked at larger ideas of ‘what we’re looking for in life’ and the lies we tell ourselves to get by; the urgency and needs that age brings and the way in which we deal with them. Whilst the writing was by no means perfect, looking back I took a lot more from it that I first thought.