This blog does not usually do theatre reviews, probably because this blogger rarely goes to the theatre but I managed to catch last night “England People Very Nice”, the controversial 2 hour treatment of 400 years of immigration in Brick Lane that’s currently at the South Bank.

Anything that’s had praise aplenty and four stars heaped upon it from the Torygraph whilst simultaneuosly being accused by liberals eg Socialist Worker and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown of being racist does not sound promising. However I found it an absorbing, warm and funny account. Yes it did have a go at Bangladeshis (portayed as bigamous, uneducated and uncouth) but similar accusations were levelled at all historical settlers to the East End – French Hugenots, Jews, Irish you name them and it was all done with humour. Political/social satire never really recovered after the end of Spitting Image in my book. “Have I Got News For You” has a fairly circumscribed format (a quiz on newspaper headlines) and is often frequented by people who look like they are part of the establishment so I wouldn’t rate it as being able to have a laugh at migratory movements.

The play also exposed (or should that be supposed) how chicken tikka masala was invented (remember when that was labelled as a by-word for Britishness) and also had a dig at political correctness. During a scene in the blitz a pair white locals step over the dead body of an Indian lascar lying in Brick Lane after discovering he’s not one of them. The PC Plod type on the scene decries them for lack of sensitivity “that’s some mother’s son” he chides. “Are you ok?” the two ask the copper. “No I’ve been on a course”, he replies. The audience all around were rolling in the aisles.

Rather than slamming multiculturalism has become fashionable in recent years it’s a celebration of it, the joke is on the BNP and the whole “British jobs for British people” line on immigration. The play basically exposes the fallacy of racial purity by demonstrating that no culture is self contained. “Cultural change” is an oxymoron. The critics ofits cride parade of racial stereotypes seem to have mised the point that all this is implicit though, requiring inference from the story, that comes bang up to date with some energetic hip-hop updating the tinkly pub piano, rather than stated in a bashing-you-over-the-head way. Which is good as I like to avoid violence to the person on my rare outings to theatreland.

The play was predictably slated by a Newnight Review panel including the elephant lamp-loving Tory education spokeman Micheal Gove earlier who found it too didactic. Judge for yourself. There is an offer via Travelex to get plebs like me in, seats for some performances are up for grabs for a tenner. The clip’s here.

Advertisements