Posts Tagged ‘Prince of Wales Theatre’

Well, panto season has come early. There are some components of that seasonal fare missing, but that’s the best the way to describe this satirical romp, cheeky, broad & bawdy, somewhat appropriately occupying The Prince of Wales Theatre until the religious, rather than royal, satire The Book of Mormon comes back. I thought it was great fun, provided you’re not a royalist or a theatrical snob.

The premise is that the Queen has died, Charles ascends the throne and using a mistake in the drafting of an act of parliament becomes an absolute monarch. Camilla as the wicked witch of course, the power behind the throne. They turn Britain into a feudal state, which triggers Wills & Kate (on a world tour to keep them out of mischief) to recruit Harry & Meghan (putting their animosity behind them), to challenge Charles. The sub-plot involving Andrew, Fergie, Beatrice & Eugenie is very much as it appears to be today, back in the real world!

I loved the fact Prince Edward (a terrific Matthew Cottle) plays a large number of roles, none of them himself; Edward did have a brief career in the theatre world, after all. A favourite of mine, Sophie-Louise Dan, is brilliant as Fergie. Harry Enfield reprises his superb TV performance as Charles. The actors playing the other seven principal roles are all very good. Princess Anne has been spared characterisation, though I’m not entirely sure why. In addition to Prince Edward’s direct-to-audience engagement, the curtain calls provide a brilliant opportunity to break the fourth wall again.

It might not be written about decades into the future, but as a funny & uplifting show for now, it ticks almost all of the boxes. Great fun.

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The premiere of this musical in 2000 was a high-profile affair for a relatively unknown American musicals team, Dana P Rowe & John Dempsey – the Theatre Royal Drury Lane no less (they had Cameron Mackintosh as godfather). It wasn’t a bad show, but the theatre was way too big for it. It moved to the Prince of Wales, but didn’t survive the tumultuous summer of 2001. This revival is at the opposite end of the scale, in a theatre about 10% of the size (in truth, a bit too small now) but its good to take a second look and it scrubs up well.

The first adaptation of John Updike’s novel was the stellar cast film with Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer & Cher. It works as well as a musical, though the first half is a touch too long. Bored housewives Alexandra, Jane & Sukie get more than they bargained for when devil-like Daryl Van Horne arrives in suburban New England to spice up their lives and wreak havoc on the conservative community. Local do-gooder Felicia and her sometime philandering husband Clyde become casualties, leaving daughter Jennifer (Alexandra’s son Michael’s estranged girlfriend) exposed to the advances of Daryl now that he’s bored with the trio he’s been bedding.

It’s done in the now customary Watermill actor-musician style and it’s exceptionally well cast. Poppy Tierney, Joanna Hickman and Tiffany Graves are a fine trio of ‘witches’ and Alex Bourne makes a great ‘devil’. Rosemary Ashe reprises her world premiere role as Felicia and though her singing is sometimes too ‘operatic’, her ability to regurgitate anything and everything is impressive! Tom Rogers’ design takes your breath away; he brings American suburbia to a converted 19th century Berkshire mill with a grey clapboard house and beds and bars that emerge from nowhere.

This is Craig Revel Horwood’s sixth Watermill show and his staging and choreography is as witty and playful as ever. I felt it was a bit crowded and loud (with inaudible lyrics) occasionally, and there’s so much going on it takes a while to settle, but by the second half its steaming (in more ways than one). There aren’t that many musical black comedies, and it’s well adapted for the form, even if it isn’t that memorable a score. Still, a good enough reason for the annual pilgrimage to Newbury and to be recommended.


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