Death of England: Delroy
Olivier Theatre, National Theatre, London
National Theatre Website
In Death of England in February, Clint Dyer and Roy Williams tackled racism and cultural identity through a white working-class man, Michael, played by Rafe Spall. They have followed this up by throwing the spotlight on his friend, Delroy, defying expectations in exploring the experiences of a Black British man. Delroy voted for Brexit and Boris Johnson, he derides Black Lives Matters and works as a bailiff without any moral qualms. When we meet him at the start of Death of England: Delroy, he’s in isolation at home, not just because of lockdown but because he’s been tagged by the courts.
Over the course of this mesmerising 90-minute monologue, we learn how Delroy has not only found himself unfairly treated by the criminal justice system but also learned that he cannot disengage himself from politics and the flaws of modern society. As he tells of his efforts to reach his girlfriend, Carly – Michael’s sister – who is close to giving birth in hospital, it quickly opens up, taking in the daily casual racism experienced by Black people as well as English identity, Black Lives Matter and even the Covid-19 lockdown.
With a riveting performance by Michael Balogun (who stood in at short notice for Giles Terera), it is powerful and moving but often funny. Directed by Dyer, it shifts from humour to rage but tentatively ends on a hopeful note. Designed by Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey and Ultz, the set – a red-carpeted platform in the shape of a Saint George’s Cross – appears relatively simple and bare but a few surprises emerge from the wings and the floor, complemented by Jackie Shemesh’s lighting. With the large Olivier Theatre reconfigured in the round (with the audience social distancing), it manages to create a sense of intimacy, boosted by Pete Malkin and Benjamin Grant’s sound design, as Balogun energetically fills the space.
The show’s opening was brought forward to the last night before the second lockdown so no more live performances are scheduled until spring 2021, but fortunately it was filmed and will be available to watch for free for 24 hours from Friday 27 December on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel.
At the National Theatre from 21 October to 4 November 2020, returning in spring 2021. Online on 27 December 2020.