This ridiculously silly new musical presents an alternative history for London in 2012 while at the same time taking a dig at present day problems. Crammed with jokes and a generous spirit, it is a great deal of fun.
There’s a catalogue of fears and wish-fulfilment: a Populist political party, formed only six months before the election, has promised a referendum on the monarchy – a Rexit – while a secret prince’s identity and mixed-race fiancée are about to be revealed to the public. A lot of crazy stuff… that’s not entirely crazy: writer and lyricist Maz Evans revels in all the potential parallels and absurdities.
There are too many jokes based on hindsight: recurring gags about the Olympics and Uber try too hard. But enough laughs land and it’s clear that, as the run beds down, the piece will get funnier. It’s great that there’s so much going – an imagined but recognisable royal group, including machinations for the throne, and a salt-of-the-earth family whose pub is in danger from gentrification – but director Daniel Winder needs to escalate the pace for a true farce. It’s a shame so much exposition (and time wasted) comes from fake news reports played on the pub TV. So the piece is far from polished to perfection. Luke Bateman’s music is overwhelmed by Evans’ imagination and the staging has ambitions beyond the cast. But the show is sound and has some characters that rightly rule over it.
Doubling roles as the family who run the Dog and Duck and the far more dysfunctional one that runs the country, Christopher Lyne, Andrea Miller and Prince Plockey acquit themselves well, despite some tentative moments. Emily Jane Kerr is consistently strong as the villainous Princess Victoria. But the crown jewels of the show are the Prince who has been slumming it and his modern-day Eliza Doolittle, born in Dagenham but called Chelsea. Here’s a sweet love affair for winning characters. Christian James makes his nice but dim heir to the throne truly likeable. Tori Allen-Martin’s working-class heroine sounds and looks great and is simply adorable, with a laugh so infectious it’s easy to believe this ‘pleb’ would win a plebiscite. Their love affair is aided by Bateman’s music and provides heart for the show, making this crazy fantasia deserve your vote.
Until 2 June 2018
Photo by Nick Rutter