Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.   ,

The play “England” by Tim Crouch tells a story of a young person from England whose life depends on a heart transplant. After this successful operation, the recipient goes to the Middle East to express their gratitude to the donor’s wife. Of course, the language and cultural barrier make the endeavour very difficult. The meeting is an emotional moment for everybody and is not helped by the interpreter, whose skills do not extend past the literal and simplistic translation of sentences. The true meaning of what is being said fails to reach those involved.

The play starts with two guides introducing the show and gallery. The audience is taken through different locations in London, England. The story soon shifts to more personal and sombre topics. Here, the audience finds out that the main character is doomed if they don’t find a heart donor. The first act is staged as a monologue of the main character, as interpreted by two actors. Sierra Percy-Beauregard and David Bernstein were inspired, natural and very convincing in their roles. Their repetition of the same phrases flew seamlessly from one word to another, from one thought to the next, reminding us that “England” is not a narrative about characters, but about ideas.

In the second act, the play moves from the exhibition space to the stage set up in the back of the gallery, where the meeting between the recipient and the donor’s wife takes place. The play explores the parallel between a physical act (a heart transplant) and the impact it has on those involved. As a consequence, it finds questions with no answers and communication with no mutual understanding. While the heart represents salvation to one side, it means destruction to the other. “My husband was murdered,” says the devastated donor’s wife through the interpreter. In the dialogue, the English person celebrates his chance at life while the Middle Eastern woman understands only that someone took her husband away from her. She is searching for answers that no one can provide.

The production of “England” is in the realm of experimental theatre. Unfortunately, there is nothing new, fresh or experimental about it. With the exception of the superb actors, the idea fell completely short. The directing came across as amateur and the use of smell –meant to be a part of the theatrical experience – came from a dispenser bottle and had no

connection to the play. The occasional use of pre-recorded material not only failed to add any value to the scenes, but ruined parts of the performance due to the lousy sound and barely understandable words. Above all, explaining the play to the audience during its duration comes across as unprofessional, even insulting.


By: Tim Crouch

Directed by David Bernstein Featuring Sierra Percy-Beauregard and David Bernstein (with Sam Kome and Emma Monet)

Performed at the Cube Gallery in Ottawa