Almost tangentially, Crouch gives the most compassionate and salient account of difference I hope to see on a Fringe which this year is awash with Middle East-themed work. He also confirms himself as a uniquely engaged collaborator with his audience’s imagination and thought processes. In many ways, this is nothing like theatre as we usually understand it, and yet in crucial elements this is its very essence.
Crouch’s wonderful text begins to reveal layer after layer of poetic depth; not only as a study of basic global injustice, but also as a reflection on an idea of national identity, character and history – of Englishness itself, increasingly swamped by the sheer power of 21st-century global markets, and turning to ashes in the mouth.
ENGLAND is a play about identity, culture, journeys and communication – an understated, crisp and intelligent piece of drama, that takes the audience out of the space they’re in, out of themselves, and very subtly puts them somewhere else entirely.
Crouch has produced a piece that is not always easy to watch but is absolutely fascinating and draws the audience into its stories even when they aren’t always entirely sure where they are being taken. For most of the time, Crouch delivers his lines with a big, benevolent smile that is quite infectious, and Ringham beams around at the spectators like a child who is pleased to have their attention.
It’s like a person with autism working as a gallery attendant or walking the audience through their life.
like all Crouch’s shows, it burns with the desire to provoke as it explores not just the nature of theatre but the way we live now, in a world where commerce knows no borders.
You are transported through time and space, jumping months and continents. There are worrying gaps. The two interlocutors also blur, their personalities at times merging, at times changing. These confusions of identity climactically reflect the ethical and highly emotional issue of who a transplant patient is exactly, if their heart is that of someone else’s dear departed. Beyond this, is the question of whether West and East can co-exist in harmony.
…created with rigorous, poetic economy… ENGLAND belongs to that wonderful genre of thoughtful plays that could be discussed for hours without exhausting its ideas.
This portentously-named two-hander left me feeling cross that I hadn’t simply been allowed to spend the hour pottering through the Whitechapel’s splendidly renovated galleries
The piece is well worth seeing, and not just because of its beautifully crafted script and assured performances. And nor because of its unconventional and, as the text acknowledges, antiseptic setting.
…an endlessly thoughtful piece which artfully challenges a globalised world where everything is for sale, and questions the value we put on art and on human life.
Tim Crouch may not be a household name but he’s a peach of a theatre-maker: conceptual without being obscure; experimental without losing the plot, or indeed faith in the power of words to move you.