England, a thought-provoking play by British playwright Tim Crouch where the value of life is comparable to a work of art.
What is the price of a heart? The very source of love and life is taken from one to give to another as flippantly as trading a piece of artwork…sold to the highest bidder. Except, in this case, it was stolen goods, traded by deceit.
England, a masterfully crafted play by British playwright, Tim Crouch, is designed to encourage the audience to share a personal and ethically complex journey of two lives brought together through death. England solicits an audience’s full attention by having them stand inside an art gallery whilst the non-gendered protagonists, played by Barbara Lowing and Steven Tandy, share the one role of being a wealthy art dealer’s lover. Whilst moving about the gallery they boastfully recount their privileged life made possible by their savvy boyfriend. He has the knack for buying undervalued artwork and finding the right buyer willing to pay an exorbitant price as an investment for their future. Artwork becomes much more valuable after the artist has died. What the protagonist didn’t expect was to come to a point in their life where selling their most valuable artwork was necessary to save their life as death rapidly approached. It raises the question of what is a life worth?
The parallel dialogue of both genders appears to represent a culture that is tolerant about sexual orientation and places great value on social status. The price of life appears limited by ones ability to buy its sustainability. In contrast, the second scene takes place in a Middle Eastern country where women are expected to cover their faces and inappropriate sexual conduct is punishable by death. The price of a life in these two countries is negotiable based on social status.
It appears that Crouch has cleverly penned this piece to provoke the audience’s personal thoughts on matters of cultural and ethical beliefs by incorporating two countries of opposing beliefs. One is where life is valued and the other where a person’s right to live is based on decisions made by those in the highest authority who are at liberty to line their own pockets when negotiating a deal.
England is a play that challenges the audience to explore their own thoughts and beliefs. The dialogue is layered with many subtle thought-provoking cultural beliefs to challenge personal debates of how we really feel and whether we are honest enough to explore them. The second scene is the most shocking. Emotions are heightened as the truth of what has happened is revealed.
Barbara Lowing and Steven Tandy, the protagonists of the story, gave enthralling performances. Both are highly acclaimed Australian actors with successful Australian and international careers. They took a complex piece of writing and created a masterpiece performance that held the audience captivated for the hour duration. Credit also should go to the creative masterminds behind the scenes; director Matt Seery and Creative Producer, Nathan Booth. From the subtle lighting and music that climaxed at opportune moments to heighten the already immaculate performances by Barbara and Steven to the visual art decorating the walls, England will impact you in a powerful way.
Be prepared to use your imagination to understand the complexities of this play. Although simplistic in its structure with only two actors playing the same role in the first scene, the second scene does involve split roles. One is the protagonist who was given the heart transplant and the other is an English interpreter living in the Middle East.
Visual artists to be credited for their artwork are: Amelia K Fulton, Brigid Holt, Dana Lawrie, Charlie Myers and Damien Pasquale.
Performances are limited so if you’d like to experience a creative thought-provoking piece of theatre, delivered by brilliant actors, I’d recommend you book as early as possible to avoid missing out.
Performances run from 19 to 29 April 2017 starting at 7.30pm. Bookings can be made online through Metro Arts: 109 Edward Street, Brisbane. http://www.metroarts.com.au/events/england/
Jacquelin attended the show on Saturday 22 April 2017
Review also published on AU Review