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Theatre Review (London): The Prisoner of Windsor at the Leicester Square Theatre

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Are some things beyond satire? When I got the press notice about Justin Butcher’s plan to write a satire about that Royal Wedding, several weeks before the event itself, I wondered.

I’m not an obvious person to go to see this – I never saw the real thing, and I read the absolute minimum about it that I could manage, but having seen and admired Butcher’s The Madness of George Dubya in my pre-blogging days, I thought it might be worth a shot.

And I don’t regret that decision. Which isn’t to say this is a triumph, or anything like it, or even really properly a satire at all. A mildly entertaining, unchallenging evening pretty well does it – I’ve had a lot worse, even if it does have the feel of a slightly underprepared university production.

And answering my own initial question, I rather think this does demonstrate that the royal wedding was beyond satire.

Butcher has slid in some of the obvious lines – “we are wicked spongers” say the slacking palace gardeners, “me too”, says Prince Wills (John Sheerman) – but his heart clearly isn’t really in it.

There are also moments of classy physical comedy – the Queen’s (Stephen Guy Daltry) morning ministrations to Prince Philip (Simon de Deney) a small piece of nicely shaped slapstick. And obligatory jokes attached to an otherworldly, but unhealthily amiable Archbiship of Canterbury (Damian Kell).

Also, this is billed as a musical comedy, but be warned that there’s little in the way of music.

What this primarily could be described as a madcap alternative history that leans heavily on the reimagining of well-known predecessors – featuring the illegimate son of Philip (also played by de Deney), who’s now one of a team of illegal immigrant gardeners –he’s Romanian, there’s an Albanian, an Algerian and an accordian-playing Bosnian – who come into contact wiith the cold-feeted Wills on wedding eve, with fairly predictable Shakespearean-style results – think Romeo and Juliet meets Twelfth Night.

There are also nods to The King’s Speech, and even a sympathetically mocking English take on the Arab spring – “international horticulturalists against the decapitation of daffodils” is a suggested placard. And “George Galloway” (Rupert Mason) makes a cameo appearance that went down very well on opening night.

The production held together reasonably well, while giving the general feeling of being a bit under-rehearsed. The cast generally did a good job with the material, with the standout being de Deney’s Bogdan, who shows real stage presence.

The production continues until June 9, with online booking.

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
  • Ellen

    A musical comedy might not be the right words to use when referring to “The Prisoner of Winsor” as this is really a rather serious play dressed up for a laugh. Having said that, I who never normally laugh of comedians, had lots of great laughs. It is really funny , mad as it is at times but also profound and interesting ,for those who have the capacity to understand it.
    You’re kept on your toes as there is so much to take in…Needs a bit of finishing here and there but do go and see it. Memorable!