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Dear England

Olivier Theatre, the National Theatre

Upper Ground, Lambeth, London SE1 9PX 020 3989 5455

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  • Synopsis
  • Theatremonkey show opinion
  • Reader reviews
  • Performance schedule
  • Ticket prices

Previews from 10th March, opens 18th March 2025. Ends 24th May 2025.
Captioned performances: 19th April 2025 at 2pm, 15th May 2025 at 7.30pm
Signed performance: 2nd May 2025 at 7.30pm
Audio described performances: 12th April 2025 at 2pm (touch tour 12.30pm), 23rd May 2025 at 7.30pm (touch tour 6pm)
Relaxed performance: 15th April 2025 at 7.30pm.

England Football manager (men's team) Gareth Southgate needs to inspire his team to victory after winning nothing important since 1966.

James Graham's new play looks at both the game and nation. A revised version, updated for the 2024 European Cup competition, a revival of the play first seen at the Olivier Theatre in 2023 and in the West End later that year.

From the previous production at the Olivier Theatre. These actors have now left the cast.

(seen at the afternoon performance on 8th July 2023)

Football seems to be in vogue for playwrights at the moment. Earlier this year “The Wagatha Christie Trials” focussed on the wives of two England players as they battled it out in court. Now James Graham takes us behind the scenes of their husbands’ workplace, tracing the career of current England Men’s Football manager Gareth Southgate from missed penalty in the 1996 European Cup to near triumph at Euro 2020 and the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

Both regular readers know that the monkey has no interest in the game whatsoever, and its only vague recognition of a few sporting names made for a dull opening twenty minutes. 

Fortunately, Graham follows the lead of newly appointed manager Southgate and suddenly pivots to explore the psychology of the locker-room rather than the apathetic spoilt brats “call me Gareth” has inherited.

With Joseph Fiennes relegated to the subs bench (presumably, and assuming that is the correct term?), Will Fletcher steps up as Gareth Southgate. More interested in changing the mental attitude of his players to put the “I” in team, he inveigles sports psychologist Pippa Grange (Gina McKee) to gently ease the boys into disclosing their feelings and bond to create a new security from which a winning team might emerge given plenty of time and positive attitude in the face of failure to write triumphant new stories.

Fletcher copes admirably with his promotion to leading actor. If not quite able to dominate as Fiennes may have done with the benefit of considerably more rehearsal, his philosophies and knowledge of precisely the situations his players are facing now make him an intelligent and sympathetic character.

McKee’s support and amusing development from academic to integral essential makes her final scene even more upsetting as things move into a higher gear and we wonder just what she was working for if that was the result.

Among the players, Bill Caple (another substitute – Will Fletcher usually takes the role) is a lively Jordan Henderson, well meaning. England captain Harry Kane may lack articulacy, but Will Close gives him sincerity, far more important.

Notes too for Lewis Shepherd as Dele Alli and Ebenezer Gyau as Bukayo Saka, two young men dealing with the least pleasant side of the game. A moment shared with McKee is a highlight of the entire piece.

The wider cast has a neat turn from Gunnar Cauthery as several famous men. His Gary Linekar, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Boris Johnson impersonations are spot on, Wayne Rooney lacking compared with the portrayal in “Wagatha Christie” perhaps.

Crystal Condie performs similar duties as Alex Scott, Roxanne and Theresa May, the last getting hoots from audience and co-stars alike - though not as many as Truss...

Excellent work as well from Sean Gilder as Physio Phil, in particular, among his own several roles. A little life experience as he works on the muscles of his boss is a strongly judged and skilled piece of acting.

Es Devlin opts for a trade mark football pitch-marking evocative circular set and adds lockers on wheels with video projections by Ash J Woodward and sound bites by Max Perryment. Wembley old and new, scorelines and old footage, the plastic chairs of the canteen, Devlin remains the monkey’s favourite set designer.

Jon Clark adds pitch and interior lighting plus flashes of crowd anger utilising all the flying resources the Olivier stage offers.

Director Rupert Goold works with movement directors Ellen Kane and Hannes Langolf to give us snatches of pitch action and busy crowd interludes, along with nail-biting re-creations of England’s Achilles heel, the penalty shoot-out. 

Goold’s free-flowing tactics are occasionally slowed by excessive writing as we digress into lengthy recaps of past games and pause to meet evicted prime minsters of the era. A laugh of recognition, but not necessarily entirely relevant when we have the endgame left a little under-explored once the team hit maturity.

As an exploration of the effect of massive external pressures placed on a very few men, and as commentary on a nation finding a new and different route – taking a pause and facing fear, Graham gives us a play from which there is plenty to learn, even for the least interested in the sport.

Perhaps there is a more concise way of telling the tale, but there is certainly room for this epic scale campaign story and (despite the lack of silverware - if only they could emulate the Lionesses), the positive celebratory atmosphere of national pride is one to be admired.

The writer deftly exposes just what it means to be both supporter and supported in the name of your country. Big ask, and it hits the net reliably almost every time. Bit like the team itself, really...

The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.

Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm (7pm on 18th March 2024, 6.30pm on 8th and 17th April 2025 and 1st and 6th May 2025)
Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm and 7.30pm (first 2pm performance is on 22nd March 2025)

Performances for schools only take place at 1pm on 30th April 2025 and 7th May 2025.

Runs 2 hours 50 minutes approximately.

Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.


Olivier theatre prices seating plan
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