Guest contributor Paul T. Davies headed of to London to review In Search of England for Keep Colchester Cool. Why a London review on a Colchester promoting website? Read on…
REVIEW: IN SEARCH OF ENGLAND ★★★
I’m in a fringe theatre above a pub in Balham watching a play produced by Fox Theatre and Theatre N16. So what has this got to do with keeping Colchester Cool? Well, the play is by local playwright Neil D’arcy Jones and it’s a production that I feel needs to find its way East!
George is on a quest to find England, or at least what it means to be English in this day and age, and he returns home after some time abroad. The England he searches for appears to be constructed from tourist guides and English Heritage, and he is not sure what that means anymore. In searching, it becomes clear that his disaffection runs deeper than confusion about the Downton Abbey image against the multi-cultural landscape he encounters. He meets a man who is known to the security services, he is interviewed in interrogation suites, and his background is as shady as his character.
A cast of three confidently tackle the subtle layers of the script. As George, Matthew John Wright digs into the material, offering tantalising clues about George’s past, not flinching away from the less sympathetic aspects of his character. Sarah Lambie is excellent multi-rolling in a range of characters, from George’s girlfriends to his mum and a security operative, and all of her characters are clearly defined. Thomas Witcomb also has this task of portraying a range of characters, and although some work well, sometimes I felt a sinister aspect was missing. He is, however, particularly strong as George’s abusive father. Sarah Chapleo’s intuitive direction handles the transitions between each scene very well, offering a clear, concise production.
The play is slightly long for a one act, and either needs streamlining or extending into a two act play. D’arcy Jones has written a highly topical play, following recent events in Europe, and George’s terrorist activity provides a satisfying climax. However, I am still unclear about what made him ‘turn’ against England so much, and as to who is exactly watching who, there isn’t a defining event offered that shapes his outlook. But maybe that is the point. The fact that George is ordinary, that he is struggling with national identity, possibly makes him the bigger threat. The dialogue is a particular strength of the play, the language earthy and real, and convincing relationships are established as the people George meets find him slipping away from them.
It’s a play that raises many questions and discussions, and all I can do is urge the company to consider bringing it to Colchester, taking the chance to develop the potential of a thought provoking play.
PAUL T. DAVIES