Dear England at the Prince Edward Theatre review: An Ode to the Nation

Friday 20 October 2023

Dear England
Prince Edward Theatre

It could be argued that James Graham is the master of creating works which capture the intricate fabric of contemporary Britain, and his most recent opening, Dear England does just that, emerging as a heartfelt, thought-provoking piece. This engaging production eloquently delves into British identity, the echoes of history, dreams for the future, and the nation's relationship to football.

Dear England artfully blends past and present, transporting audiences through time in a seamless and captivating manner. This storytelling technique offers a unique lens through which we can view the profound influence of history on our present. The play focusses on Gareth Southgate's journey as manager of the England football team, linking in his own personal history, as well as the histories of his team and England as a whole. It's a very cleverly done show which feels completely relevant, modern and necessary.

The characters, portrayed by a talented ensemble cast, come alive with vibrant, authentic performances. These characters represent a rich tapestry of contemporary Britain, showcasing immigrants, soldiers, activists, and politicians. Joseph Fiennes outstandingly leads the show as Gareth and helps to cultivate the entire cast's emotional depth, forging a genuine connection between the characters and the audience. 

Es Devlin's set design is typically National Theatre and incredibly well done, seamlessly transporting us from one time to another. The use of multimedia elements, including videos, adds depth and texture to the storytelling. With each shift in the backdrop, the mood and ambiance evolve, underscoring the diversity and complexity of the themes explored.

Graham's writing is sharp and insightful, with sprinkles of humour throughout to balance the gravity of the themes. Dear England explores national identity, migration, patriotism, and the ever-relevant question of what it truly means to be British. The dialogue is simultaneously poetic and genuine, prompting the audience to reflect on their own connection to the nation.

It's fair to mention that the play occasionally teeters on the edge of trying a bit too hard, with the odd scene not being as impactful as you'd hope. Nevertheless, this is a small price to pay for a production that aims to encapsulate the very essence of a nation and overall Dear England is a touching and timely exploration of the British identity. It masterfully navigates the waters of history, politics, and human experience, leaving audiences with a deeper understanding of what defines their nation.

This production is a testament to the incredible power of theatre to mirror, challenge, and celebrate our shared story. With its compelling storytelling, exceptional cast, and innovative design, Dear England is a need-to-see performance, that hopefully will engage and resonate with both regular and not so regular theatregoers. 

Reviewed on Thursday 19th October 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}


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