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BWW Review: THE END OF LONGING, Playhouse Theatre, February 9 2016

It's been 13 years since Matthew Perry was last in a West End production, and The End of Longing marks his playwriting debut. Currently running at The Playhouse Theatre, it tells the story of four friends in their late 30s living in LA, whose lives become entwined.

Perry plays Jack, an alcoholic who meets friends Stephanie (Jennifer Mudge) and Stevie (Christina Cole) at a Los Angeles bar. Along with Jack's less-than-intelligent best friend Joseph (Lloyd Owen), their lives are irrevocably changed as romance blossoms between Stephanie, Jack and their two best friends. The relationship between Jack and Stephanie has the ability to become self-destructive; an alcoholic and a prostitute don't sound like a match made in heaven. But it also means that the two have the opportunity to turn their lives around and the audience starts willing them to make the changes necessary.

The set, designed by Anna Fleischle, is chic and neat. The downtown LA bar turns easily and fluidly into a variety of locations including Stephanie's apartment and a hospital. And while it takes some time for the first act to get going, director Lindsay Posner ensures the audience is kept entertained and intrigued throughout the second act. The production feels like a sitcom, although that's not necessarily a bad thing - it makes this an easy to watch play. Certain characters are pretty much Friends characters transported to the London stage. Joseph lacks intelligence, while Stevie is desperate for a baby - so basically they're Joey and Monica. On the whole however, Perry's writing is funny and given all of the problems he has gone through personally with alcohol addiction, it feels as though the audience gets a real insight into the problems Perry himself faced.

The best moment from Perry comes in a confessional address to the audience, where he confronts his demons, inciting a round of applause and cheers from the crowd - it's a touching moment and one that brings out the best in Perry and his character. Opening The End of Longing in London is the easier option for Perry, London audiences are much more willing to try new shows compared to New York. And I have no doubt that Friends fans will be flocking to see the play - although some may leave underwhelmed.

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks

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