Running as part of the seventh annual Travelex £10 season, England People Very Nice covers a broad sweep of English history, centred around the various migrant communities living in Bethnal Green. From the French Huguenots to the Bangladeshis, Bean aims to show that tensions caused by immigration are nothing new.
NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner directs a large ensemble cast featuring Olivia Coleman, Rudi Dharmalingam, Sacha Dhawan, Michelle Terry, Fred Ridgeway and Sophie Stanton, with design by Mark Thompson. England People Very Nice runs in rep until 30 April 2009.
Like the characters it portrays, the critics were divided over England People Very Nice. On the pro side, it was an evening of “enjoyable ebullience”, while for the cons, it left a “sour taste in the mouth”. One element that most agreed on was an appreciation of Bean's “disgracefully funny” jokes and the strong performances of the ensemble. However, enjoyment of the play seemed to boil down to a simple question of taste. For some it was neither “liberal, humane or interesting” in its attitude towards multiculturalism, while for others Bean's script is filled with “wisdom and humanity”. All in all, Nice, but not Very.
- by Theo Bosanquet