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Review: English Kings Killing Foreigners at the Camden People’s Theatre

Review by Olivia Ruggiero

English Kings Killing Foreigners is a brilliant, snappy, and current new comedy currently on at the Camden People’s Theatre for an incredibly limited run. It should, in fact, have an open-ended, unlimited run; for its ingenuity is second to none and it is the best of what theatre should be. 

Our introduction to Nina Bowers and Philip Arditti is a little odd, being invited to join a game of MadLibs (an incredibly rigged game mind you), that forces the audience into participation before being asked, a little too late, if they at all mind audience participation. This running gag is the first of many fantastic moments of comedy provided by the pair. Arditti and Bowers bounce off each other like Federer and Nadal in a rally for the final point at a Grand Slam. They are equally likeable and shine just as much as one another which is part of what makes this piece such a triumph. 

The way Bowers and Arditti build tension throughout their fast-paced, witty and, at times, absurdist dialogue is nothing short of a masterclass. The script is a fine piece of contemporary theatre writing, interlaced with Shakespeare’s quintessential Henry V speeches, it becomes more than fine. It is phenomenal. 

The story is human and very relatable. It takes the mickey out of what a lot of theatre directors attempt to do with Shakespeare or “Classic” pieces today. The attempts to subvert them into something so relevant that they lose their impact and become convoluted is a running theme throughout the show. We are provided with the answer of how to fix this. It is hinted (not so subtly) that it is in fact the universality of Shakespeare that is so brilliant; it transcends borders, cultures, and languages. So, is it entirely necessary to turn the narrator into a Syrian refugee working in a kebab shop, just to get the point across? Or could we simplify it, and let the truth of our stories speak through the text? Would that be enough?

In that same breath, they look at the sensitivity of today’s societies. How diligent we must be to just address someone, how no-one can assume anything about anyone – age, gender, background, religion – and in turn, how difficult it is to just make art when you have all of that to contend with. 

The true impact of the show comes with the realization that what we portray as actors or attempt to convey as creatives might not necessarily align with personal views. It brings to light the idea that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing when art makes you uncomfortable and sometimes it is that feeling which creates the foundation for great art. 

Bower’s embodiment in her Shakespearian soliloquies is effervescent. Arditti’s ability to draw the audience into his world is impressive. Together, they are superb. Aided by the most magnificent script, there’s nothing stopping this show from being the next big hit. What’s most astounding is how something so raucously funny can leave you contemplating so much about our world, particularly that of the world of theatre. In short, there’s nothing wrong with this show – in fact, there’s a whole lot of right. Please run, don’t walk, to secure a ticket. 

Image Supplied


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