Dream Team... Graham, Goold and Gareth Southgate!

Against Columbia, you did something for this country, no others have ever done!

Dr Pippa Grange

“You made us respond with moments of laughter and tears.”

Marcus Rashford

Joseph Fiennes as Gareth Southgate. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

It is called the beautiful game but its beauty may have eluded me until this week. Dear England is James Graham and Rupert Goold’s take on the England management career of Gareth Southgate (Joseph Fiennes). It starts with that heart wrenching moment in 1996 at the Euro semifinal against Germany when the young Southgate (Will Close) volunteered to take the sixth penalty, which was saved, and as Germany then scored, the game was over.

What James Graham has done is to show us the humanity and likeability of this manager as he employs a psychologist Dr Pippa Grange (Gina McKee) to help his team connect as a team and to diminish the terrible pressure of taking a penalty kick and carrying the hopes of a nation.

Joseph Fiennes as Gareth Southgate with the team (Photo: Marc Brenner)

We briefly meet Sam Allardyce (Sean Gilder) who, by contrast, is all bluster, explaining that he was taken on after England’s ignominious defeat by Iceland with a population of just a third of a million. Allardyce won a single match before a scandal led to his resignation and Southgate (Joseph Fiennes), manager of the England Under 21s, being appointed as caretaker manager.

Joseph Fiennes gives a memorable performance having studied Gareth Southgate’s individual diction, modest manner and empathetic leadership. He also looks like him! The team on this play has Rupert Goold as director, on tip top form as ever, bringing excitement and physical drama to this band of brothers. Es Devlin’s design uses the revolve with a dozen or so wooden locker or sentry boxes turning, each showing the club strip of a Premier League club facing towards the audience. There is inspirational classical music, punctuation to a change of scene.

Gina McKee as Dr Pippa Grange. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

With Pippa’s help, Gareth Southgate helps the team to forget individual club rivalries and to release some of the negative thinking but to congratulate themselves on being fourth in the world. This also means being more supportive of each other in moments of disappointment. Southgate tells them that they will write a story; they look blankly when he mentions Shakespeare but then relate to the Star Wars story.

Southgate does a lot of work on penalties, explaining how England can rush it taking just 2.8 seconds before they shoot, whereas Germans average 8.4 seconds. Southgate shares the trauma of his 1996 penalty but we see England win for the first time on penalties, in the last 16 of a major tournament, against Columbia in the 2018 World Cup.

Lewis Shepherd as Dele Alli. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

All the team are there played by credible look alikes, Daragh Hand as Marcus Rashford, Lewis Shepherd as Dele Alli who has family trauma, Will Close as Harry Kane whose gift is in his feet rather than when called upon to speak, but whose diffidence will make us smile. Jordan Pickford (Josh Barrow) is the goalie and Harry Maguire (Adam Hugill) and Jordan Henderson (Will Fletcher) all shine. Movement is down to two, choreographer Ellen Kane and Hannes Langoff who besides theatre dance, teaches yoga. Their emphasis is recreating the excitement of football moves throughout the play and for individual actor/players to showcase their footballing talent.

Southgate will also explore with his team what England means to each of them drawing attention to their diverse experiences and up bringing. It is an inclusive approach which unites the audience as well. He will also raise how the St George’s flag can have negative connotations.

There is an amazing amount of football history and character studies in Dear England, all of it easy to follow and there is also room for great comedy.

 I have not felt as enthusiastic about a play about sport since Mike Bartlett’s Chariots of Fire and I am longing to see Dear England again. I have no hesitation in awarding it five joyous stars from Theatrevibe, the site that doesn’t do stars.

Kei Matsena as Raheem Sterling and Will Close as Harry Kane. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Production Notes

Dear England

Written by James Graham

Directed by Rupert Goold



Gina McKee

John Hodgkinson

Adam Hugill

Bill Caple

Crystal Condie

Ebenezer Gyau

Gunnar Cauthery

Joseph Fiennes

Josh Barrow

Miranda Heath

Nick Barclay

Paul Thornley

Sean Gilder

Tony Turner

Will Close

Will Fletcher

Will Harrison-Wallace

Ryan Whittle

Darragh Hand

Tashinga Bepete

Kel Matsena

Lewis Shepherd

Albert Magashi


Director: Rupert Goold

Set Designer: Es Devlin

Costume Designer: Evie Gurney

Co-Movement Designers: Ellen Kane and Hannes Langoff

Lighting Designer:  Jon Clark

Co-Sound Designer: Dan Balfour and Tom Gibbons

Video Design: Ash J Woodward

Musical Director: Dan Glover



Running Time: Two hours 50 minutes with an interval

Booking until 11th  August  2023


Transferring to the Prince Edward Theatre 

from 9th October 2023 



Olivier Theatre

National Theatre

South Bank

London SE1 9PX

Tube/Rail : Waterloo

Website: nationaltheatre.org.uk

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Olivier Theatre on 20th June  2023

Will Close as the Young Gareth Southgate in 1996. (Photo: Marc Brenner)
Dear England Cast (Photo;MArc Brenner)
Dear England Cast. (Photo: Marc Brenner)