Hayley Squires and Sharon Duncan Brewster deliver on performances in the final chapter of Clint Dyer and Roy Williams’ “Death of England” series. The two-hander stars stars Sharon Duncan-Brewster alongside Squires. Duncan-Brewster stepped in to replace Jo Martin.
This series, which commenced with “Death of England” in 2020, delves into the complexities of racism and identity in contemporary England. In the initial solo act, Rafe Spall portrayed Michael, a man grappling with the scars of his tumultuous upbringing and a major falling-out with his best friend Delroy, who is Black.
Over time, the series has evolved, showcasing Delroy in “Death of England: Delroy” and both men in the film “Death of England: Face to Face.” “Death of England: Closing Time” shifts the focus onto the female characters, specifically Michael’s sister, Carly, and Delroy’s mother, Denise.
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While watching the previous episodes is not mandatory, it can certainly enrich the experience, allowing for a deeper appreciation of the stage design and sets that echo the original production.
In this latest installment, Carly, portrayed by Hayley Squires, has assumed control of the family’s flower business, while Denise, brought to life by Sharon Duncan-Brewster, manages a shop selling patties, symbolizing the essence of multiculturalism. Regrettably, their business is on the brink of collapse, and the shop is at risk of being taken away from them.
The first half of the play meanders to some extent, weaving monologues and dialogues that provide insight into the characters and their relationships. However, it omits the incisive perspectives on #femininity that were so pronounced in the earlier chapters regarding masculinity. Nevertheless, it remains captivating, with occasional engagement with the audience and moments of humor. The two actors oganically fit into place resulting in a believable display of a love-hate relationship that runs deep, and is magnified by the actors skilled delivery and feels real. Script in hand (which it took a while to notice) Duncan-Brewster with just a week of rehearsal shows that she is a “bit of a veteran actor”, working the simple set and bouncing of Squires it makes for a very watchable feat.
The second half features a standout scene where Carly, under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, delivers a painfully funny monologue about “five ways to care for a Black man.” This moment, masterfully portrayed by Squires, underscores Carly’s inability to view Delroy as anything other than a Black man, despite her deep affection for him. However, the rest of the play is less intense, veering into a isubplot about Carly being “canceled.”
Though the reasons behind Carly and Denise’s inability to run the shop together may seem somewhat implausible, the underlying message is deeply moving. The play concludes with a potent image of the two women working together to close down the shop, hinting that if the current system is proving ineffective, perhaps it’s time to start anew, united