One of the funniest plays I’ve seen in a long time, William Gaminara’s The Three Lions imagines the meeting of David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham, as they campaign for England to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Every ounce of comic potential in the scenario is exploited and the play opens up to be about far more than football – politics, power, celebrity and compromise – all perfect sport for excellent satire.
The material is superb and the demanding mix of one-liners and farce played expertly. Ably supported by Antonia Kinlay, as Cameron’s gushing PR, and Ravi Aujla, as a suspiciously effusive hotel employee, the three leads give a winning hat-trick of performances. All embrace the caricatured, public faces of these famous men, so the portraits convincingly duplicate what we think we know about Cameron’s slickness, William’s blandness or Beckham’s intellect.
Tom Davey has the hardest job as Prince William, a generic nice-but-dim, but reveals a taste for practical jokes perfectly. Cameron comes out well, with Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s careful study of a leader new to power and struggling with it already. A scene where Cameron swaps trousers with Beckham caused so much laughter I missed some lines. Stealing the show is Séan Browne’s Beckham. And not just because of the casting coup of an uncanny physical resemblance. As soon as Browne opens his mouth he has won the audience and there are countless times when Beckham’s idiotic replies are deftly handled.
While Gaminara’s targets might be easy, there’s nothing mean spirited about The Three Lions. And there’s a healthy undercurrent of anger about the abuses of power that are the play’s real concern. The text has a mass of gags and it’s Philip Wilson’s direction that ensures its success. There must be a football metaphor for how sure his work is: never taking his eye off the ball and scoring with each line. Simply insert your favourite football manager here to praise his work. Not that an interest in the game is needed to enjoy this beautifully crafted piece: huge fun, superbly done, Premier League stuff.
Until 2 May 2015
Photo by Craig Sugden