Thursday, May 30

Death of England: Delroy – National Theatre Live

The sequel to the play that went out earlier this year where Raef Spall played Michael, friend of Delroy.

Death of England: Delroy is a new play that premiered and closed on 4th November this year and subsequently is now being streamed live on YouTube in order to give it the airing it deserves. And of course, adjusting to the social distancing measures that have rocked the foundations of theatre this year.

A refreshing new play written by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams is at least getting to reach a wider audience tonight who may not be able to visit the Olivier Theatre in London or not think to watch it so there’s some positivity to be gleaned from this.

The writer Dyer tells us that out of adversity, things happen, and enthuses there has been a shift in consciousness this year due to the Black Lives Matter movement, although this was written prior to that.

Delroy is a 90-minute monologue starring Michael Balogun apparently the understudy for the role but by no means giving it any less cachet. The lights go up and Balogan sits in the middle of the set, a George cross slurping on a can of lager, casually dressed. He has the audience in the palm of his hand, sometimes intimidating, sometimes eliciting laughter.

His storytelling opens up rant style about his background, his mother, relationships and his unfortunate incident with the police where he ends up in custody while his girlfriend Carly is giving birth. His experience is an all too familiar nightmare that has been prevalent in modern times.

The character of Delroy we learn is a bailiff, who is pro-Brexit and precedes to tell the audience his uncomfortable thought patterns that have led to this decision. This powerful message makes you realise that not everyone is making political choices for the same reason and suffices to challenge stereotypes.

Dyer and Williams script is fast paced and sometimes witty, sometimes harsh, it doesn’t hold back from being straight to the point and delivered enigmatically by Balogun.

Women feature in the script, quite a homage to the female of the species too. A new baby being the centre of the protagonist’s world, (his mother, a straight talking, unsympathetic character was a respected figure too) illustrates a softer side to Delroy, beyond the tough guy and giving the work a softer edge.

Also appreciated was the witty set design which involved the actor carpeting the cross himself (literally rolling out the red carpet). And it gave some visual additions to the monologue.

You can’t fail to notice that this is a piece of ground-breaking work. It’s gritty, clever and has emerged like a phoenix from the ashes through the intensity of lockdown and expect more from Dyer & Williams. It ends on a positive humane note, with a message of new life and hope beyond death and destruction.

Reviewer: Rachel Foster

Reviewed: 27th November 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★