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England People Far Too Nice

by Mary Jackson (July 2009)

“F*ckin’ Frogs,” exclaims the Cockney barmaid in Richard Bean’s play
England People Very Nice, which I saw at The National Theatre in March. Fair enough – after all, they came over ‘ere with their looms, takin’ aaah jobs. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and the barmaid, East Ender to the core, despite her Huguenot blood, now rails against “F*ckin’ Micks”, the bog-trotting Irish immigrants who keep pigs in their lodgings and mate with their brothers and sisters – “at least you know where they’ve been”. Next up are “F*ckin’ Yids”; refugees from the pogroms receive a less than warm welcome. But love conquers all, and the Irish girl who is now as Cockney as they come, marries a Mr Klineman: “Jews and Irish? That’s the worst kind of marriage! You end up with a family of pissed-up burglars managed by a clever accountant." Bawdy humour and an undertone of menace save the first half of this play from being a Zadie-Smith-meets-United-Colours-of-Benetton multicultural mush, but it is not yet saying anything new. Mocking of both stereotypes and stereotyping, so far the play is scrupulously even-handed in its offensiveness, and will therefore offend only those determined to be offended. Then, in the second half, come the “F*ckin Pakis”. more>>>