Tuesday, August 16

The Throne – Charing Cross Theatre

With ‘Prince’ Andrew embroiled in rape and sex trafficking criminality, while his brother, Charles, the future king, battles a ‘cash-for-honours’ scandal involving bags of cash, the monarchy has never looked so unworthy of our respect. As working families struggle to feed their kids, using food banks and benefits to survive, the gilded wealth of Buckingham Palace seems less like a glittering distraction and more like an insult to the moral fabric of society.

There are many who’d disagree with this assessment, perhaps even the Queen herself. The Throne, a new comedy, by John Goldsmith, steps into this debate, using farce and satire to explore some of the questions around ‘monarchy Vs republic’.

The play is set in a ‘sink comprehensive’ school, as it prepares for a visit from the Queen. It’s set in 2002, year of the Golden Jubilee. One of the teachers, Derek Jones (Charlie Condou) is in no mood to celebrate, as he’s a socialist and a life-long republican. In fact, the idea that he should wear a tie to face the monarch enrages him so much that he resigns his post.

In a perfect farcical storm, Mr. Jones becomes locked in a roomy portaloo with the Queen herself while authorities attempt to stave off a terrorist threat in the shape of a bomb scare. Mary Roscoe plays Elizabeth II and pulls off this conceit with dazzling aplomb. There is barely a passing resemblance, but within minutes, Roscoe fills the stage with an authority, reserve and presence that drags us over the line of disbelief and fantasy. She nails it. Roscoe IS the Queen.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

Condou is a masterful comic, as anyone who saw his turn in Nathan Barley can confirm. In The Throne, he has an opportunity to flex those muscles, swinging from furious fighter for the working class to terrified loser, and emotional wreck. Throughout these episodes, the Queen remains calm, aloof and barely amused. Thrillingly, the dramatic set up provides us with a surreal fantasy; the head of the royal family defending her constitutional position with one of her subjects, who’s a left-wing firebrand.

Condou and Roscoe are compelling to watch. Their intellectual sparring, comic timing and stage presence are flawless. Their performances are hilarious to behold and it’s a joy to laugh so uproariously when we live in such dark, unfunny times. It’s a shame the ending descends into the realms of sci-fi fantasy. It’s the wrong note, played on an unsuitable instrument.

The author John Goldsmith feels The Throne is a ‘convincing win for the Monarchist side of the argument’. It isn’t, nor will it change the minds of any free-thinking republicans who see it. The Throne IS very entertaining however and it’s a superb showcase for two actors at the top of their game.

Playing until the 30th July, https://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/the-throne

Reviewer: Stewart Who?

Reviewed: 4th July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★