This new play, Eng-er-land kicked off a UK tour with its opening performance in the Alleyn Theatre at Dulwich College . The performance, written and performed by Hannah Kumari was endearing and searing in eqaul measure as the beautiful game came under scrutiny.
Eng-er-land is a lively, entertaining, and a thought-provoking new play. It is written and performed by Hannah Kumari and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair who helps create a monologue that is fun and well-paced, only to contrast with slower, more reflective moments that draw us in to turbulent world of the football fanatic.
It is a clever device to include the audience as fellow fans as this engenders both sympathy and empathy for a young fan as we witness the highs and excruciating lows of following Coventry FC in the 1987 Cup. Football violence, verbal or physical demeans us all and leaves us somehow complicit as we see the open minded, innocent fan crushed and humiliated while we ourselves are posed with the question ‘why does no one say anything?’
Kumari is impressive as the young Coventry City FC fan, moving from girlish enthusiasm, through hero worship of the local idols to the isolated fan, abandoned by her supposed friends. Interestingly the focus of the play not only deals with gender issues, where the female fan seems to have little support (not even from uncle Steve, who also attends the matches but keeps his distance) but it also has us focus on race as our young fan is a person of colour.
The play is full of fun and the endearing performance of Kumari draws us in to a footballing tale of neat observations with song and dance, football stats and anecdotes, all with energy and conviction. The race card is played with an odious reality. Yet with good humour Kumari recalls her Scottish father automatically hating England in the nationals, but she shouted for England because she was born in Coventry, even though others often ask her where she comes from. This comic situation explores the complexity of identity is well crafted and Kumari’s comic timing is sharp, with attitudes well observed.
Twisting and shouting they rise in the league bringing all the excitement and thrills of disallowed goals, penalties, and fouls. Then, almost at full time, in a dramatic climax, our Coventry supporter happily meets a fellow like-minded enthusiast. However, her dreams and hopes are ruthlessly shattered as we witness an excruciating assault, and we see the positive aspects of football crumble – not such a beautiful game after all.
Eng-er-land informs and entertains in equal measure – do catch it on its UK tour and when that final whistle blows you will have lots to talk about as the action really is end to end.
CREATIVE AND PRODUCTION TEAM
Writer and Performer Hannah Kumari
Director Rikki Beadle-Blair
Choreography Nadia Sohawon
Sound Design Tingying Dong
Dramaturgy Milli Bhatia
Producer Alistair Wilkinson
Photography credit Ali Wright
Graphic Design India Martin
Eng-er-land is on tour from 16 Feb – 2 Apr – for more information and tickets please visit www.wolab.co.uk/eng-er-land