Think of England, Vault Festival
There is a good piece hidden within Think of England, but to find it, it will need a very judicious edit.
The performance I saw was supposed to run for 90 minutes but overran by 25. Starting at 9pm and running without an interval that’s pretty bad. Worse was that both myself and my companion both felt that after an hour of the drama, nothing had really happened yet.
This left the dramatic events that close the play poorly set up. They don’t flow comfortably from where the rest of the play has taken us. As a result, I had no real sense of what I was supposed to come away from the play thinking or feeling.
There were also significant staging problems. We were sat on the end of a row and if the actors were at the other end of the stage – or even just had their backs towards us (inevitable given the staging had seating on either side of the action) we couldn’t hear them very well.
This was also not immersive theatre as I have come to understand it. Yes, there were occasions where the cast broke the fourth wall, but apart from a 5 minute dance lesson (which, to be fair, was charming) we were seated throughout and the most interaction was occasionally being asked to join in a patriotic song or hold some bunting.
I should add that the performers themselves were quite good. They kept our attention and delivered the material as well as space would allow.
Think of England isn’t a hopeless play, but it isn’t ready yet. At present, it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It feels like a long series of semi-improvised skits only half of which was necessary to serve the story. To succeed, they need to take it beyond the workshop phase, cut it down significantly and be a lot clearer what their core story is.