Joseph Fiennes stars in James Graham’s play about Gareth Southgate and the England football team. But is it a winner or an own goal?

Jewish Chronicle: **** “As Southgate Fiennes is physically and vocally pitch-perfect as the England manager who has the intelligence to seek out new ideas, such as hiring a sports psychologist Pippa Grange (Gina McKee), while still understanding the blood-and-thunder football culture in which he was raised.”

The Guardian: *** “There is power in seeing the story of football told on the biggest stage of the National Theatre, with rousing moments in the second half, and it is beautiful from start to finish in its optics. So it scores, ultimately, even if it does not quite bend it like Beckham.”

Evening Standard: **** “Rupert Goold’s production is pacy and dynamic and Joseph Fiennes uncannily captures Southgate’s distinctive diction and his careful blend of confidence and diffidence.”

Time Out: **** “‘Dear England’ is a big-hearted, technically dazzling celebration of football first and a critique of it second. If it was the other way around I wonder if it might feel a little more like a play for the ages. Graham’s best work is so improbably brilliant it carries the audacious rush of putting ten past the other team’s keeper. ‘Dear England’ is maybe more like a comfortable 3-1 – but who isn’t happy with that?”

British*** “The play works best when Graham is enjoying himself in his writing, the jokes land and there is genuine tension in those penalty shoot outs! It’s an enjoyable, beautifully staged evening, and if it brings to the theatre an even more diverse audience, it will do its job well.”

London ***** “It’s our national story told with heart, humour and headers, and a beautiful celebration of an unlikely hero. Fiennes is definitely man of the match, but this is a joyful, and victorious, team effort.”

The Stage: **** “Joseph Fiennes gives an extraordinarily uncanny central performance in James Graham’s entertaining character study of England manager Gareth Southgate.”

The Arts Desk: ***** “James Graham’s life-affirming new play locates hope and feeling amid the ravages of defeat.”

WhatsOnStage: ***** “What the production has in abundance is both energy and tenderness. It is full, in fact, of exactly the same qualities that created Southgate’s ethos – of compassion, of inclusion, of a willingness to recognise that winning isn’t everything, that respect and love for one’s teammates are also qualities worth striving for.”

The Independent: *** “Joseph Fiennes delivers a remarkable performance as the waistcoated England manager, but James Graham’s new play won’t get the world in motion.”

The Telegraph: ***** “State-of-the-nation playwright James Graham brilliantly captures the blokey awkwardness within our wider national story.”

Dear England continues to play at the National Theatre until the 11th August 2023.


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