National Theatre to resume live performances with ‘explosive’ new play

Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent
·3 min read

The National Theatre is to resume live performances with an “explosive” new play – “a very English reflection of the Black Lives Matter movement”.

Opening in the autumn, Death Of England: Delroy is a one-person play.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the go-ahead to resume socially-distanced, indoor performances in England.

Writers Clint Dyer and Roy Williams wrote the new play – set in lockdown – over five months.

It follows on from Death Of England, their previous production, which starred Rafe Spall and closed at the National just weeks before lockdown.

The National Theatre on the Southbank, central London
The National Theatre on the Southbank, central London (Louisa Collins-Marsh/PA)

The new story focuses on the character of Delroy, the best friend of the protagonist in the first play.

Set in London this year, Delroy, played by award-winning Hamilton star Giles Terera, is arrested on his way to the hospital.

The writers said they “hope to take audiences on an illuminating journey into the black British psyche and realities of a ‘tolerant’ England in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement”.

It is hoped that socially-distanced live performances of the play will begin at the Olivier in late October.

National Theatre director Rufus Norris said: “This week Death Of England: Delroy will have its first workshop as we finally, carefully open the doors of the theatre to artists and put in place plans to start live performance again this autumn.

Rafe Spall starred in the previous play (Ian West/PA)
Rafe Spall starred in the previous play (Ian West/PA)

“Clint Dyer and Roy Williams have delivered another explosive piece of work, set during lockdown and charting its own fearless and provocative course through the same subjects as its prequel, and a very English reflection of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It is so important for us to be welcoming artists back into the building again, and planning for doing the same for our much-missed audiences.

“The moment the incomparable Giles Terera steps out on the Olivier stage at that first performance will be an incredible one, and I’m thrilled to be reopening our theatre with such an important and timely piece of work.”

Dyer, who will direct the production, and Williams said: “There’s a moment in Death Of England at his father’s funeral where Michael (played by Spall) tells Delroy ‘You may act like us and talk like us, but you will never be one of us’.

“In telling Delroy’s story, we hope to take audiences on an illuminating journey into the black British psyche and realities of a ‘tolerant’ England in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

National Theatre director Rufus Norris
National Theatre director Rufus Norris (Paul Plews/National Theatre)

The National is midway through a redundancy process, saying it needs to save up to 30% of staff costs.

Union Bectu has called the decision “premature”.

The Government announced a £1.57 billion support package to “protect” the future of Britain’s  theatres, museums and galleries but the money is yet to be distributed.

Norris said that “while the National Theatre remains fortunate in many ways, the sheer scale of its need renders it ineligible for a rescue grant.

“Instead we must apply for a loan – if successful, we will be making repayments for the next 20 years,” he wrote in the Guardian.

The National has been streaming plays – and asking for donations – with the likes of Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden airing on its YouTube channel.

Terera has a lengthy list of theatre credits and is best known for playing former US vice president Aaron Burr in Hamilton.

The role won him the 2018 Olivier Award for best actor in a musical.