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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 176 Contents

Socialist Review, June 1994

Lee Humber

Middle class crisis


From Socialist Review, No. 176, June 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Falling over England
by Julian Mitchell

Julian Mitchell is the author of Another Country, which appeared in the mid-1980s and explored the hidden sexualities and sham morality of the English upper middle class. It was a tense affair, lifting the curtain on all the double standards and hypocrisy of our betters as they tell us one thing and do another.

Falling over England has the same slick dialogue and believable characters. The performances are good. The set is okay. Er ... that’s it. The play has nothing new to say and carries the smell of an author who once was genuinely sickened by the nature of his class but who is now reconciled to accepting that it’s the best on offer.

The action revolves around two generations of the same family with the Suez crisis of 1956 in the background. The aborted British invasion of Egypt that year was final confirmation that Britannia no longer ruled the waves. This play tries to assess how the English middle classes have coped with that fact. There are passing references to ‘Hungary in 56’ and ‘back in 68’, in a pretty poor attempt to suggest that the younger members of the family once considered something more than their own careers.

We are invited to pity ‘Dad’ who calls anyone with a dark skin ‘wog’ and admits to framing a young Egyptian for a murder Dad’s friend committed. We are asked to sympathise with the daughter who has to leave the family house in the country to go to London twice a week to write her column in the Independent poor thing, and with the grandson who has the awful dilemma of choosing to go up to Oxford or off travelling around Europe.

The play tries to suggest the decaying nature of the English upper middle class family and its values as it limps towards the millennium. But it comes nowhere near the decrepit, corrupt and obscene condition of that class and its ideals as they squirm around in the mud of recession, lining their own pockets at our expense.

Falling over England plays at the Greenwich Theatre, London SE8

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