After football playwriting success with Brighton itself, playwright Paul Hodson now turns his attention to the national side for England Away.
The piece plays The Hawth studio, Crawley, on April 28-29 and The Old Market, Brighton, April 30-May 1.
Written and directed by Paul, the play is a comedy delving into themes of passion, patriotism and Englishness through three distinct scenarios.
The story begins in 2001, as four England fans are thrown together in Germany the night before an astonishing 5-1 victory for England. Jump back to 1944 and two men argue and dream about the land they have been fighting for on their way home from Germany, contemplating their hopes and fears for a new England.
The action is intercut with stand-up comedy routines from Eddy Brimson in the present, punctuating scenes with provocative and hard-hitting material about football culture, what it means to be English and what’s happening in the world that day.
“Originally the idea for the show came out of a show that I wrote about Brighton & Hove Albion,” Paul says. “We did a show about the club a couple of times, once for the centenary of the club and once for the opening of the new ground. We got about a thousand Brighton & Hove fans a night at the Brighton Theatre Royal.
“I was wondering if there was a show that would work in a similar way for English fans. I started investigating it, and the result is a very different show to the Brighton one. The Brighton show is the story of a club. When I was investigating this show, I got very interested in the idea of Englishness and what it means, and also what it meant back in World War Two and how it is different now.”
Paul alighted on England’s 5-1 win against Germany in Munich as a hook for the piece: “It was a World Cup qualifier, and I thought if I took some English people and put them down in Germany, that could be very interesting in terms of seeing the way they behave. There is a camp site in Munich, and I thought I would put the four people there. That was the germ of the play.
“I was thinking about people behaving in the way that they did in 2001, and I just thought about what was happening 60 years before with people of a roughly-similar age in Germany.”
Paul concedes that the 5-1 brought out some of the worst elements of Englishness: “There is an element of support that doesn’t always behave in the way that we would want them to behave. There a segment of English fans that felt that going over there and being loud and getting drunk was the right way to behave.”
He continues: “But since then, the England support has been remarkably different. There was the Japan World Cup not long after that, and then there was the Germany World Cup when none of the predicted trouble ever actually materialised.”
The play comes from the company The Future is Unwritten, which has been touring since 2009.
The cast includes Mark Jardine (James), Molly Taylor (Beccy), Dharmesh Patel (Mo), Andy Gillies (Jim) and comedian Eddy Brimson.