England & Son

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. England & Son has already won a Best of Theatre Award in the Adelaide Fringe 2024. Add to this the  awards from the Edinburgh Fringe 2023 and Scotsman Fringe 2023 and you know that it has a solid pedigree. This play, directed by Cressida Brown, is an absolute winner.

This is a story about fathers and small boys; what years of fighting in a bitter colonial war can do to a soldier; and how domestic violence and a damaged childhood can inevitably destroy a man. It’s a grim story of broken lives and lost opportunities, told by Mark Thomas in a play which is engrossing, heart breaking, and at times, very funny. His is a virtuoso performance.

Wth the audience seated in a square around the performance space, the lights come on to reveal a man in turmoil, crying out in an agonised primal scream. We are immediately drawn in by the sheer strength of the drama and the actor’s artistry. No word or gesture is superfluous, as the story of his life unfolds. A wide-eyed eight year old boy who only wanted his father’s approval, eventually becomes a broken young man in prison.  Brutality, domestic violence and institutional neglect ensure that the young England never  had a chance. A life so broken reflects on the broader society. While it may reflect on the UK today, it also resonates in many so called liberal and civilized countries.

Credit must also be given to the writer Ed Edwards. He has provided a script which guides the narrative through labyrinth of incidents and emotions without ever losing the way, balancing the darkness with shades of light and humour

Ed Edwards

On the night I went the audience applauded Mark Thomas, but instead of filing out after he had left the stage, no one moved. We sat in silence allowing time to absorb the impact of what we had seen. I have been told that this is a very common reaction and speaks to the power of a performance which is developed not only from the skill of the writer and actor, but from their combined life experiences.  

The Studio, Holden Street Theatres  

Until 17 March

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