Death Of England: Closing Time
21 October 2023
4.0 out of 5.0 stars
Death of England: Closing Time is the fourth full length instalment of the Death of England series. Each piece is stand-alone, but works as part of a larger story examining identity, race, and class in England. The plays utilize riotous humour to make its stark themes more palatable.
Starting with Death of England, in which Michael takes a stand at his father’s funeral, speaking openly about racism, friendship, and the country that shaped his father’s opinions. Exploring how their father dealt with Michael’s best friend, Delroy, dating Michael’s sister, Carly.
The second play, halted by Covid measures and ultimately streamed online, Death of England: Delroy, focuses on its titular main character, who recounts being detained due to racial profiling while Carly lay in hospital, giving birth to their daughter. The one-hander examines Britain’s Black working class and their struggles in a country that still does not fully accept them.
Part three, Death of England: face to face, was not staged live, but made into a film that can be streamed through the National Theatre. In this piece, Michael and Delroy confront their relationship with their country, and each other, while the nation is in the midst of lockdown.
Part four, Death of England: Closing Time, gives the women in the story a voice, focusing on Carly, and Delroy’s mother, Denise. The two women have gone into business together, Carly taking over the family’s florist with a cash injection from Denise’s life savings, while Denise uses the other half of the shop as a small cafe, a multi-cultural set-up that was supposed to bring the families closer together. But the shop has failed and it is time to close and hand over the keys. The men, Michael and Delroy, have gone off to watch footie, while the women are left to pick up the pieces of their lives, confronting family dynamics, culture, the working class, the cost of living crisis, and of course racism.
In the beginning, Carly and Denise blame each other for the failure of their business, bitterly fighting while dealing with their own grief and uncertainty for their future. But through long discussions, the tensions shift to other topics, examining womanhood, current and recent crises, and of course racism, especially un-intentional, deep seated, internalised racism and how it affects even those who consider themselves inclusive, open-minded, allies.
The strongest scene is undoubtedly the opening of the second act, in which Carly drunkenly entertains unseen women on a hen do, giving them a list of ways to “look after your Black man”, hilarious and horrifying in equal measures, an absolute masterpiece of a train wreck scene.
This obviously racist scene leads to Carly falling out with Delroy and Denise, and being attacked online, responding with a live video apology that becomes and even worse misstep. Only once Denise opens up about how she was affected by the video, not because of what Carly said, but because of how Denise’s family and friends reacted, do the women get close to reconciliation, eventually bonding over the anger towards Delroy who chose a football game over being there for his girlfriend and mother in one of the most difficult moments of their lives.
The play is brilliantly funny while also delving into very dark topics, looking at how our current society and circumstances impact the lives of working class people, and how family dynamics will always be difficult to navigate.
A fantastic addition to the Death of England saga that is deeply emotional and raw.