BBC to adapt Gareth Southgate play Dear England for TV starring Joseph Fiennes

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Dear England is to be adapted into a TV drama, the BBC announced on Wednesday (21 February) evening.

The series, based on the hit play about Gareth Southgate and England’s journey to the 2022 World Cup, will see Joseph Fiennes reprise his role as the manager.

Lindsay Salt, director of BBC Drama, said: “Dear England was a back-of-the-net triumph on stage, and we could not be happier to work with James Graham, Joseph Fiennes, Rupert Goold and the team to give it the perfect home on the BBC.

“A story about the England team, football, national identity and so much more, this is hugely entertaining must-see television drama.”

The drama will be produced by Left Bank Pictures, the company behind Netflix juggernaut The Crown.

Andy Harries, CEO of Left Bank Pictures and executive producer on Dear England, said: “Dear England is a theatrical tour de force from one of the most exciting playwrights of our generation.

“Left Bank Pictures are thrilled to be working with James Graham once again and I’m certain that the TV adaptation of Dear England will be as ground-breaking as the play itself.”

Joseph Fiennes (Gareth Southgate) and ‘Dear England’ cast at the National Theatre (Marc Brenner)
Joseph Fiennes (Gareth Southgate) and ‘Dear England’ cast at the National Theatre (Marc Brenner)

The four-part series will be written by James Graham, who also wrote the play, and will be directed by the play’s director Rupert Goold.

The plot is a fictionalised account of the struggles and successes of England’s football teams, based on extensive research and interviews.

The play had a sell-out run at the National Theatre before it transferred to the West End last year.

In The Independent’s three-star review from June last year, Jessie Thompson wrote that “Dear England is ambitious, but often overloaded by the sheer number of events since 2016”. She praised the lead, saying: “Fiennes’s portrait of Southgate is remarkable.”

The adaptation of Dear England was one of a raft of new dramas announced by Salt at a BBC event on Wednesday evening.

She also announced Sex Education star Aimee Lou Wood will co-write and star in a new romantic comedy drama called Film Club for BBC Three.

Wood will make her screenwriting debut alongside Ralph Davis for a six-part series about a pair of friends who get together every week to watch a film, all while harbouring a secret love for each other.

Also announced was The Ministry Of Time, an adaptation of Kaliane Bradley’s debut novel about a newly established government department that is gathering “expats” from across history in an experiment to test the viability of time-travel.

Commander Graham Gore, an officer on Sir John Franklin’s doomed 1845 Arctic expedition, is one such figure rescued from certain death – alongside an army captain from the fields of the Somme, a plague victim from the 1600s, a widow from revolutionary France, and a soldier from the seventeenth century.

The expats are placed with 21st-century liaisons, known as “bridges”, in unlikely flatshares.

Also included is The Listeners, based on the novel by Jordan Tannahill, who has also written the adaptation, starring Vicky Cristina Barcelona actress Rebecca Hall.

She will play a popular English teacher, who begins to hear a low humming sound that no one else around her can hear but which upsets the balance of her life and increases tension between herself and her husband, Paul, and daughter, Ashley.

No obvious source or medical cause can be found, but when she discovers that a student of hers can also hear the sound, the two strike up an unlikely and intimate friendship.

There will also be a spin-off from The Split, entitled The Split Up, about the high-stakes world of Manchester’s divorce law circuit, where one family of lawyers, the Kishans, reigns supreme.

The Split creator Abi Morgan said: “After the success of The Split, it’s been great to see The Split Up take shape in lead writer Ursula Rani Sarma’s capable hands, reinvigorating all that audiences love.

“A new legal family, grabbing at life in a new city, battling new legal cases, as the professional and personal deliciously collide.

“A brilliant new cast of characters caught in the messiness of love, marriage, deception and divorce, make it their own. It is ripe to be taken into the hearts of anyone who loved the show.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association