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The Beginning of the End
Theatre N16
24th August 2016

★★★★☆

Sara Huxley and James Craze as Chloe and Ed

Photography supplied by End of the Line Theatre

Ed (James Craze) and Chloe (Sara Huxley) are the perfect modern young couple. Probably. We'll flip a coin for it... wait for it... oh yes, they are. However, when Ed's depression spirals out of control, this places a huge strain on their relationship and their lives take some very unexpected and complicated twists and turns. Set in Kingston with plenty of references that will raise a smile for those who know the area, in The Beginning of The End, we learn how Ed and Chloe first met and what happened next. However, this isn't as straightforward as boy meets girl.

The story is narrated separately by Ed and Chloe. We jump from a monologue by one character, to a monologue by the other, back again, live action and so on. Sometimes we're in the past, sometimes in the present - we start at the end and move around, with the tale unfolding in a non-linear manner. As you would expect, this all makes for an incredibly dynamic, busy production and the two actors positively glide past each other seamlessly, stepping in and out of different roles and moods and maintaining an impressively fast pace and energy. The play has been co-directed by the actors themselves, together with assistant director David Zoob, and it works well letting the co-stars control their own performances with a bigger picture oversight from a third person.

Both Craze and Huxley put in what are mostly polished performances. Although there are a couple of fluffs, the actors recover quickly and move on, therefore this never has time to become an issue. We're just picky. Their characterisation is beautifully crafted - neither protagonist is the brightest button, but they're both still quite fleshed out, with it easy to form a connection and develop an interest in their lives. We find ourselves rooting for both Ed and Chloe at all times, wanting the pair to sort things out and live happily ever after. They're very ordinary people and that's what makes the emotional investment this high. If those two can't make it, who can?

Now, there are a few little niggles with the script: whilst the ending itself unfolds in a way that is true to both characters, the setup for that is unrealistic. And I am reliably informed that Chloe swipes the wrong way throughout on her dating app. However, we instantly forgive and gloss over such inconsequential faults as Jim English's writing is so delightfully comedic and honest, with the arguments between Ed and Chloe so believably ridiculous. Most couples rarely fight over the serious issues, debating important topics with well-considered arguments. No, if we're being truthful - and this is a play that is written from a very heartfelt, genuine place - boxes of cereal are a wonderfully plausible cause for a fallout. The abruptness and sheer idiocy of some of these lines makes us laugh hard with recognition. Who hasn't been a part of an utterly pointless fight?

Having previously seen the same cast and crew stage The Words I Should Have Said To Phoebe Lewis, it's a pleasure to see them still working together and still making the sort of relatable, funny shows that people truly want to see. You could argue that the humour is too simple but good theatre doesn't have to be deeply intellectual, it merely has to serve the purpose of its own choosing and here English clearly aims to give us a good time. I can think of worse goals. Relatable, well-acted and wildly entertaining, let's hope this is the beginning for this 70-minute production's future and not the end. Never mind "and a packet of crisps", we'd sincerely like to request "and another run, please".

The Beginning of the End opened on 22nd August and runs until 26th August 2016 at Theatre N16.

Nearest tube station: Balham (Northern)



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