A new era is upon us, and with this, many questions arise. Forced to craft new ways of living, thinking, working -post 2020, we’re at a transformational time on a national, as well as global level. Questioning what ‘England’ is and what it means in early 21st century Britain, The National Theatre have bravely responded to this with a series of works, Dear England a powerful reminder of the power of football, and how through the ‘beautiful game’, we can tackle ugly, harsh truths on a wider scale.
A look more so into the vision of England’s current manager Gareth Southgate, Dear England ushers us into a world whereby the power of the collective and looking after our well-being are considered paramount – a stark contrast to the egotistical/individualistic nature of the game in the old world. Fictionalised clashes between Southgate’s innovate notion of delving deeper into the psyche and emotional nature of each football player at odds with fellow management – these clashes comical yet fascinating to watch transpire. Es Devlin’s pristine digitised set interchanging between changing rooms and the grandiosity of the football stadiums the team face their various opponents in – this Match of the Day type aesthetic anchoring Dear England in the now, making the show instantly familiar and exciting to watch.
Joseph Fiennes embodies a Southgate who’s kind, attentive – full of ideas but also willing to let others silently guide. A strong performance that becomes more so, not because of the need to be the centre of attention, but rather to take a step back at points and let circumstances play their course. The ensemble football team consisting of – Will Close as Harry Kane, Denzel Baidoo as Bukayo Saka, Will Fletcher as Jordan Henderson, Kel Matsena as Raheem Stirling, Lewis Shepherd as Dele Alli, Griffin Stevens as Harry Maquire, Josh Barrows as Jordan Pickford and Darragh Hand as Marcus Rashford capturing the fire of the young, talented team who boosted morale back in 2018 when they made it to the World Cup semi finals placing fourth overall – all clasping the tussle between working on inner battles, strategising wins and confronting some of societies greater issues – James Graham aware of the crossroads we’re currently at nationally when it comes to questioning what ‘England’ means and not afraid to explore that – Rupert Goold directing an energetic, current, choppy observation of England’s love of football and how we some how ‘miss’ that special something when it comes to winning major championships, the journey to figuring out whatever that is an unpredictable one, something Southgate has the ability to question and inspire others to also delve deeper and question too which is necessary!
Written by Lucy Basaba.
Dear England is currently showing until Saturday 13th January 2024 at the Prince Edward Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…