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.