Review: Death of England – Delroy, National Theatre

Michael Balogun is thrillingly good in Clint Dyer and Roy Williams’ Death of England: Delroy, soon to be streaming from the National Theatre

“I’m guessing that everyone knows what I’m talking about”

It’s less than a year, though it may feel like a lifetime, since Rafe Spall astounded in Clint Dyer and Roy Williams’ Death of England. Death of England: Delroy sits as a companion piece as we meet Delroy – the best friend of Spall’s Michael and also the boyfriend of his sister Carly – in a ferocious study of Black British identity.

Dyer and Williams deliver once again, tackling race from challenging, unexpected angles. Working-class Delroy is a proudly Boris-voting Brexiter and works as a bailiff. But it is the colour of his skin that matters in this society, as he finds out to his cost once again when he is arrested whilst racing to meet up with Carly once her waters have broken.

The writing is punchy and pertinent. Black Lives Matter and taking the knee sit alongside COVID and white privilege. The realities of being a young black man, in an interracial relationship as well, are spelled out uncompromisingly. And Michael Balogun’s blistering energy makes us feel every beat of the story, even as he switches to cover a multitude of different voices.

It is a mark of how immensely difficult the theatre industry currently has it that the show has had to close on the day it officially opened (as well as dealing with the late indisposition of original star Giles Terera). But the filming of the show means that it should soon gain a worthy wide audience who should wisely heed its message. 

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