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Warwick Arts Centre, Review: ENG-ER-LAND



ENG-ER-LAND, Warwick Arts Centre, 16 -17 February.


BY ASHLEY HAYWARD

Two of the biggest passions in my life are the theatre and football and it was therefore something of a no-brainer when I was called off the bench to review this play.

I was certainly not disappointed by this semi-autobiographical monologue written and superbly performed by Rugby born Hannah Kumari.

She plays the character ‘Lizzie’ who went to watch her first football match at Highfield Road as a 13- year-old in 1997 and fell in love with the ‘beautiful game’ and specifically with Coventry City FC.

Those were the days when City were an established Premier League side who were always avoiding relegation by the narrowest of margins.

Lizzie invites the audience to accompany her on the bus from Rugby to watch her beloved team entertain Liverpool in those far off days.

I could certainly empathise as Lizzie described her feelings of excitement and anticipation as I enjoyed similar emotions when I started watching my local team, West Brom, in the late 1950’s!

She describes the sense of ‘belonging’ as she approaches the ground wearing her Sky Blues shirt and joining in with the chants of thousands of fellow City supporters.

Lizzie, however, is of mixed race with an Indian mother and a Scottish father. She wants to feel English but at games she is aware of aggressive looks she receives from some fans and feels conspicuous as her skin is slightly darker than most people in the stands.

These feelings are reinforced when some of her friends point out how she is different and ‘doesn’t fit because you’re a Paki.’

The play sensitively portrays the problems facing mixed race young people who don’t feel totally accepted by either culture.

It is also depressing that football grounds can still be very hostile places as evidenced by the abuse received by Black English players after Euro 2020 and the way some supporters find it necessary to loudly boo when players take the knee before kick-off.

Hannah Kumari gives an energetic, passionate and faultless performance as Lizzie and even demonstrates excellent dancing skills when bopping along to Gina G’s British entry in Eurovision 1996!

She is a highly talented writer and performer and I wish her well as she takes Eng-er-land on tour.

I also wish her team every success – except when they play the Baggies of course!

Sky Blue Army!