EXCLUSIVE: Ballykissangel star Dervla Kirwan reveals she is ‘excited’ to join Joseph Fiennes on stage in Dear England play about Gareth Southgate
As the hit National Theater play about England manager Gareth Southgate and his efforts to transform the team’s fortunes prepares for its big transfer to the West End, there’s a big new signing.
I hear Ballykissangel star Dervla Kirwan will join Joseph Fiennes, who plays Southgate, in Dear England when it moves to the Prince Edward Theater in October.
She will play the role of Dr. Taking over Pippa Grange from Gina McKee, the psychologist who helped change the players’ mentality.
“I’m really excited to take on the role,” says Kirwan. ‘I haven’t performed in the West End for a while.
“It’s such a special experience and I’m thrilled to return to the heart of Soho in a theater big enough to bring James Graham’s critically acclaimed play to a whole new audience. Rehearsals have only just started, but the company already feels like a winning team.’
Excited: Ballykissangel star Dervla Kirwan will join Joseph Fiennes, who plays Southgate, in Dear England when it moves to the Prince Edward Theater in October
In character: Joseph Fiennes (left) looks unrecognizable as he transforms into England manager Gareth Southgate for a new play at the National Theater (right, Gareth pictured in 2022)
Handmaid’s Tale star Joseph is the spitting image of the football star in the first images.
The play will shine a light on the pressure of penalties and Gareth’s ‘cultural reform’ of the England men’s national team in his six years as manager.
A synopsis for the piece reads: ‘It’s time to change the game. The country that gave the world football has since shown a painful pattern of losses. Why can’t England’s men win at their own game?
‘With the worst penalty shootout record in the world, Gareth Southgate knows he must open his mind and face the years of pain to take team and country back to the promised land.’
Gareth made 57 appearances for England as a player but is probably best remembered for missing a crucial penalty against Germany in the Euro 96 semi-final at Wembley.
Gareth went on to achieve huge success as manager of the England men’s national team from 2016, leading them to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and the Euro 2020 final.
Speaking about the play, writer James Graham said it will focus on Gareth’s “epic and moving” “cultural reformation” of the England men’s football team.
James, who wrote the BBC One drama Sherwood, said: ‘Telling this national competition story on the National Theater stage is simply the greatest thrill, but also an intimidating responsibility. The experience of working on This House at the National Theater ten years ago changed my life as an emerging writer.
Casting change: She will take over Gina McKee’s role as Dr. Pippa Grange (pictured in 2018 at the World Cup), the psychologist who helped change the players’ mentality
One to watch: The piece will shine a light on the pressure of penalties and Gareth’s ‘cultural reform’ of the England men’s national team in his six years as manager
Drama: Dervla starred alongside Stephen Tomkinson in Ballykissangel from 1996 to 2001
Role: Gina McKee previously played Dr. Pippa Grange
‘Now, with Dear England, it is, I know, an exciting opportunity to have the chance to shine a light on another public institution in the form of the England men’s football team.
“I find what Gareth Southgate has attempted in his quiet cultural reform of English football epic and deeply moving. And I’m so grateful to be surrounded by some of British theatre’s most exciting creative talent to unite around this new show.”
Director of the National Theater Rufus Norris added: “I am delighted to welcome James Graham back to the National Theater this summer with his new play.
‘Dear England is a fascinating investigation into the complex psychology of the beloved ‘beautiful game’.’
Director Rupert’s credits include Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III at the Almeida Theater before adapting it into a screenplay for BBC Two, which was nominated for a Bafta.