Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Traverse Theatre Company with News From Nowhere and the Fruitmarket Gallery
Karl James and A Smith (directors), Tim Crouch (writer), Dan Jones (sound designer)
Tim Crouch, Hannah Ringham
Running time

Tim Crouch and Hannah Ringham welcome us to the Fruitmarket
Gallery. It's a slightly stilted but sincere welcome, with a familiar ring to
the ear of the regular gallery-goer. For 'England' is in some ways about art's
ability to communicate, and very much about our individual and collective
inability to do so.

Although Crouch's script is spare, lucid and everyday in its
language, its density matches the complexity of Alex Hartley's images of the
built and natural environments currently on the walls of the Fruitmarket
Gallery. 'England', however, isn't site-specific as the term is usually
understood, although setting is clearly crucial to the audience's experience

Crouch and Ringham share a character whose gender is never
specified, and whose journey from health through illness and transplantation is
as much about a faltering grope toward an appreciation of what 'the gift of
life' may actually mean. Crouch's creation moves slowly from an unquestioning
acceptance of a materially good life through puzzlement over what can be bought
or possessed against its cost to others, materially, emotionally and / or
spiritually. It's a dense and at times dark journey, experienced very much as
two halves as actors and audience move from upper to lower level in the gallery

Language in 'England' is both a barrier to understanding and
a desire to break down that barrier, a desire to possess and a wish for
possession, art and talking about art frequently the context of that
expression. The anonymous 'boyfriend' shared between the two actors becomes a means by
which the pun 'appreciating art' is expressed - he deals in art, sees its value
in material terms, in what status owning a Willem De Kooning places its
possessor, rather than what the painting may say about the sensibilities of its

This is tight acting of a very high order, giving expression
to both the singular incommunicability of human experience and our individual
and collective desire to break barriers. Within the second half of the play,
this desire for communication becomes intrusion, as the character(s) seek out
the family of the person from whom they have received a donor heart. Although
this is very close to the core of the play, it felt less convincing to this
reviewer. This may be due to personal experience of the practices of transplantation
and thus a possibly overly-critical reaction to the notion of transplantee and
donor family meeting, a more than rare occurrence.

Altogether, and despite that small cavail, a remarkable piece of theatre, deserving
of time, attention and subsequent reflection.

Dates: 3 - 26 August

Times: 8pm, 3 - 26 August, plus additional perfomances at 10pm 10, 11, 17, 18, 21-26 August.