Review Round Up: Death of England, National Theatre

Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for  Roy Williams and Clint Dyer’s one man play starring Rafe Spall.

(c)Helen Murray

The Guardian: **** “Overtly political references range from Trump and Steve Bannon to Tommy Robinson and the Windrush scandal but these embody the play’s few weak moments, when Michael speaks as if on a soapbox. They are few and far between, though, and its broader politics – of class, race, nationhood and family – make for the most exhilarating and hair-raising drama. This is truly a play for today.”

Culture Whisper: **** “There are some plot points that seem underdeveloped and unresolved, but they hardly matter because of Spall’s mighty performance. It’s a vigorous, exhausting display that masterfully blends humour, empath and anger.”

Evening Standard: **** “Dyer’s production pulses with dynamism, helped by stark lighting changes and blasts of Nineties trip-hop. It was clearly created for Spall and he is the engine that drives it, recklessly and fast. I sincerely hope he gets to have a lie-down and a gargle afterwards.”

The Telegraph: *** “For 90 minutes, Rafe Spall (son of Tim), delivering a superb performance but one so full-throttle it almost breaks its own gear-stick, barrels about a cruciform thrust-stage and lets this archetypal ordinary geezer get a slagheap of issues, the personal mushed with the political, off his heaving chest.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “The one-note ferocity can wear itself out – a flame extinguishing itself after burning through all the oxygen in an enclosed space. Perhaps that’s the point – that we, as an audience, get numbed to tormented rage the longer we witness it. But in the wake of a divisive referendum and a redrawing of political ley lines, more plays like Death of England need to exist on British stages. They need to be howled from venues across the nation.”

London **** “Spall’s astonishing physical performance keeps him restlessly on the move throughout the play, always maintaining a relentless flurry of words that makes it a true tour-de-force. As he travels from rage and raw grief to understanding, we are entirely gripped.”

A Younger Theatre: ***** “Spall’s ability to remember such a magnanimous number of lines whilst bringing the audience along on his stream of fragmented yet clear consciousness in a way that feels increasingly dynamic is astounding.”

iNews: **** “It’s a mesmerising and commanding piece of bravura acting which also shows how Michael’s personality is itself a performance: gradually we realise that he is merely acting out a role. The result is a superbly nuanced portrayal of anger, masculinity and national identity.”

The Metro: **** “This is a terrific piece of work that pierces the ugly, Brexit-amplified confusion over who we are as people and as a nation — in a language that always rings true.”

London Unattached: “Death of England is a play that can genuinely speak to a diverse audience, something the National Theatre needs to be and is doing.”

British ***** “With a superb soundscape by Pete Malkin and Benjamin Grant, and a lighting design that swaggers along with Michael, this is urgent storytelling for a 100 gripping minutes, visceral, raw, emotional, funny, complex, broken and beautiful, much like England itself.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “An admirably intelligent piece of writing; a truly astonishing piece of acting.”

The Upcoming: *** “It is a visual indication of the tack taken throughout: stating rather than investigating, delivered by a performer who stays at eleven from start to finish. It’s bracing. It also feels like something of a missed opportunity to properly dig into class, race and masculinity in this country.”

Death of England continues to play at the National Theatre until the 7th March.

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