To try and summarise just how outlandish The Windsors is as a stage show, imagine if the writers of Spitting Image found a file labelled ‘Daily Mail Royal Fan-fic’ and gave it to the editors of Viz magazine, after getting them spectacularly drunk and sitting through a marathon of ‘Carry On’ movies.
Based on the satirical Channel 4 show, by Bert Tyler-Moore and the late George Jeffrie, and featuring many of the show’s original cast, The Windsors imagines a world where the Queen, weary of public life after the death of her beloved Phillip, has abdicated in favour of the world’s longest-serving intern, Prince Charles.
Charles – played by Harry Enfield with the perfect sense of tired pompousness that one would expect from someone waiting 70 years for a work promotion – promptly goes power-mad, wasting no time in parading round the palace in full royal regalia, and channeling his inner Gollum as he cradles his beloved crown.
He’s joined by Tracy-Ann Oberman as Camilla, who completely nails her audition for Disney’s next villain, clearly taking great pleasures in being painted as the panto baddie, via a show-stopper of a musical number, and stoking Charles’ ambitions to a level that would make Macbeth’s murderous tendencies seem perfectly reasonable.
We then spend much of the show following the exploits of Princes William (Ciarán Owens) and Harry (Tom Durant-Pritchard), and Kate (Kara Tointon) and Meghan (Crystal Condie) as they struggle to put aside their differences and stop Charles’ despotic schemes, with a side plot of Beatrice and Eugenie’s (Jenny Rainsford and Eliza Butterworth) naive attempts to help their dad, Prince Andrew (Tim Wallers), clear his name from recent allegations.
Throw in the excellent Sophie-Louise Dann as an opportunistic Fergie and Matthew Cottle as a brilliantly insipid, Buttons-esque Prince Edward and you have the perfect combination for total mayhem.
There are no holds barred in sending up the worst, imagined characteristics of our Royal rabble. Meghan ‘Ohmmms’ her way through daily life in LA with her rescue chickens, blissfully unaware of the vodka Harry keeps slipping into his wheatgrass smoothies. Wills and Kate fret over the lack of Boden catalogues in Charles’ new world order. Beatrice and Eugenie are wonderfully out of touch with reality.
Director Michael Fentiman deftly guides his performers through this hysterical show, aided by deliciously pointed references to current affairs that are barely days old and more barn-storming songs. Although it’s safe to say neither Will’s hilarious rapping nor Charles’ warbling is likely to give Lin Manuel Miranda any sleepless nights.
Sometimes the humour can feel a bit too crude. Occasionally lyrics in the songs are drowned out by the accompanying music. And, with references being so up to date, the odd line of dialogue is a bit rough around the edges from time to time. It could be interesting to follow how the real-time activities of the actual Royals will impact the script over the next few weeks.
But, having made the most of Madeleine Girling’s clever, economically opulent set design and milked the dialect training from voice coach Patricia Logue to maximum comedic effect, our cast gets no argument when Charles scores an easy standing ovation by insisting it would be unbecoming if they bowed to the audience, rather than the other way round.
Maybe they’ve been given a bit of an easy ride from an audience eager for a good laugh but, ultimately, The Windsors: Endgame is a perfectly bonkers tonic from the woes of the real world.
Playing until 9th October – https://thewindsorsendgame.com/
Reviewer: Lou Steggals
Reviewed: 10th August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★