Union Theatre – until 23 May
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
London, 2011, and the people of Britain are excited – not because of the upcoming Olympics (which everybody knows will be a complete shambles) – but because the identity of the secret prince is about to be revealed. Living in anonymity since the death of his mother in a freak pedicure accident, Prince Bertie has grown up, attended catering college, and fallen in love with staunch Republican Chelsea – a mixed-race pub landlord’s daughter from Barking. Maz Evans’ book mixes Pygmalion and Spitting Image in a brash and often corny story of love, politics and inbreeding. Newly elected Centrist Prime Minister finds himself at the mercy of ambitious and power-hungry Princess Victoria and a referendum is called on who should take the throne after Queen Mary dies. Victoria plots to split the happy couple to ensure her triumph.
The royal stereotypes are all familiar, with the queen a foul-mouthed bigot who hates her useless dithering heir, and the pub characters are also nothing new. Some of the jokes are older than Queen Victoria, and fall flat, but there are some inspired moments, with Evans’ lyrics providing some huge laughs. The running gags begin to wear thin as the show goes along, but some judicious pruning should iron out the wrinkles. The musical numbers are decent, but not memorable, but are sung brilliantly by the talented cast accompanied by a pub piano.
The cast do wonders with their characters – Tori Allen-Martin delivers a five-star performance as usual, making Chelsea loveable and believable, with amazing vocals. Christian James is sweet and charming as bumbling Bertie, with a fantastic voice that works wonderfully with Allen-Martin’s. Emily Jane Kerr goes maniacally OTT as manipulative Victoria. Andrea Miller excels as Chelsea’s sex-mad sexagenarian grandmother, all legs and leopard print, and as malevolent Queen Mary, while Christopher Lyne is hysterical as useless Prince Richard and ensures Chelsea’s dad Brian is the true heart of the piece. Prince Plockey also does impressive work as the Prime Minister and Uncle Vernon.
H.R. Haitch isn’t exactly biting satire, but it is good fun, and the cast elevate the show to a bright and breezy treat.