Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Hilarious parody of a parody of a parody in a right royal romp.
Struggling actress Beth Buckingham is upset, distraught in fact. Despite what she thought was a faultless audition, Netflix don’t want her to play HM Queen in their new mega-series, The Crown, a role she’s been dying to take on ever since, ever since…….well let’s just say that she thinks she was born to play a royal. But did her agent, the mercurial Stan Diamond, actually send the demo tape that she had him put together? Why did Claire Foy land the darned part and not her?
In a show where The Play That Goes Wrong meets The Crown meets The Goon Show meets, well, think of any classic farce, Daniel Clarkson’s superb script is given wings (and more) by Rosie Holt and Brendan Murphy in a way that generated laughter from start to finish. In fact, I gave up making notes about what went wrong, the props that misfired or were lost, the audience members who stuffed up lines or stole the scene when they weren’t supposed to, the waterfall of one-liners (think Tim Vine on steroids) and much more.
The Crown Dual is, in essence, a parody of a parody (The Crown) of a parody (the real royals). It takes neither itself nor its subject matter with any degree of seriousness, sending everything up, sky high in most cases. And to go with an expertly crafted script we had two actors right at the top of the difficult art of reacting rather than acting – “reacting” to the things that they’ve rehearsed to go wrong but responding in character when the inevitable unplanned cock-up occurs – props inadvertently being tidied away by members of the audience being the prime cause in the show I saw.
Nominally this is a canter through the earlier part of HMQ’s early life, from meeting her prince, to ascending the throne, dealing with her errant sister and a variety of patrician prime ministers and officials. But there’s plenty of dipping in and out of plot and character to signpost the audience onto the next subject together with a bucket load of ad libs and audience improv sequences.
Holt sticks mainly to the title role that her alter ego, Buckingham, so craved and delivers a bravura impersonation. Murphy, meantime, does almost everything else which includes what I estimated to be over 30 costume and character changes with a quick sex change (to Margaret) thrown in for good measure. Both of them deliver a consummate demonstration of character (and caricature) acting, everything believable but without hindering their frequent descent into the surreal, the absurd and the downright plain funny.
Stand out moments are almost too many to recall, but watch out for the coronation scene, which involved most of the front row of a packed audience being assigned temporary roles and was priceless. If it could go wrong, it did go wrong, largely because Murphy engineered it. And his impersonation of George VI, complete with inventive use of the King’s well-documented speech defect was inspired.
Just occasionally all the elements align to create a memorable comedic experience – a tightly worded script, actors capable of rolling with it and a big enough audience to create a roll of laughter. All three were present in spades here and it was wonderful to see an audience basically lose control of itself and descend into a fit of the giggles from about the midpoint of the show onwards. By the time we arrived at the cleverly worked denouement, most of us were pretty helpless and Holt and Murphy could have probably quoted from the proverbial telephone directory (if such a thing still exists in the digital age) and had us rolling in the aisles.
If you’re getting tired of Brexit, Trump, polemic politics, general world angst and anger, anything in fact, then take yourself off to see this. Sharp script, top flight acting and enough energy to power our failing National Grid. Highly recommended.