St Giles-in-the-Fields, London – until 23 June 2018
Paul (Chris Polick) is a London property developer. He’s a smooth talker and wears impeccably cut, expensive-looking suits. He goes to exclusive chillouts where he takes pills and fucks men he doesn’t know. He’s waiting for the clinic to phone.
Wendy’s (Sarah Malin) an art therapist for a few different charities. She’s a liberal activist and works with homeless people when budgets allow. She and her boyfriend Dave have just split up so she has moved out and has nowhere to go. With luggage in tow and work in the morning, she’s reached the end of the line.
These two, from opposite ends of the socio-political spectrum, find themselves in a quiet church in the heart of Soho looking for peace. Neither is religious. Paul’s developing the area and Wendy’s mum grew up there. Both reflect on its history and change, and where their lives go from here.
Marcelo Dos Santos’ script is mostly alternating monologues in the third person, allowing each character to be the star of their own story whilst sharing their fears, vulnerabilities and flaws as time marches on around them. There’s a sprinkling of songs (by Dos Santos and Edward Lewis) that helps break up the long sections of text, but the lyrics can be repetitive and overly simple, causing plot progression to stagnate.
The intimacy between the characters and the audience is the most moving aspect as the pair tangle with lives that seem to have got away from them. The juxtaposition of the immensely personal against the impressive architecture of St Giles church makes their stories all the more of the moment. A building that’s stood there for centuries that witnessed the sweeping changes of a city quietly holds these two without judgment. It’s a near-religious experience for someone not religious.
Both characters have aspects that are unlikeable which make them all the more human, but prolong the development of a connection with each other. Though desperate people are often and understandably standoffish, the payoff is put off too long, then rushed at the end.
This is a site-specific show that is genuinely site-specific in that it takes place in the exact location that its set – many so-called site-specific shows fail to achieve this. The stories that unfold take the audience on an invested, emotional journey of struggling lives in a changing London, and bring people together in a moment of stillness in a world that inevitably moves on. It’s thought-provoking, comforting stuff.