Review: H.R.HAITCH.

2 star rating
Risqué humour sometimes misfires in a farcically absurd royal romp that feels limp, unsubtle and unrefined, and lacking strong musical numbers to offset those deficiencies.
H.R.HAITCH. at The Union Theatre

Image: The Union Theatre



Closes here: Saturday 2 June 2018

Author:
Maz Evans

Composer:
Luke Bateman

Lyricist:
Maz Evans

Director:
Daniel Winder

Cast:

Chelsea - Tori Allen-Martin

Bertie - Christian James

Princess Victoria - Emily Jane Kerr

Vera/Queen Mary - Andrea Miller

Brian/Prince Richard - Christopher Lyne

Vernon/Nathan - Prince Plockey


Various roles on film:


Rebecca Layoo

Matt Stubbs

Jenny Horsthuis

James Rastall

Steven Ticehurst

Nick Howard-Brown

Kieran Sims


Synopsis


London, 2011.


The Olympics are doomed, the East End is being gentrified for houses no-one can afford, Amy Winehouse has died, and Adele's released her second album.


It's been a tough year.


But, in a world where Kim Kardashian can't stay married for a whole TV series, love has blossomed between feisty East Ender Chelsea and dopey toff Bertie.


He's never going to win Mastermind, but he won Chelsea's heart when he boned her trout at catering college.


Its 2012 and Chelsea's future is bright.


She has a new man and there's a new progressive Prime Minister to light the days ahead (#blessed).


The media can stick their obsession with the identity of Prince Albert, the secret royal who's been in hiding for 20 years.


Bertie has something big to tell Chelsea.


He's down on one knee, but it's not a ring he has in store … it's a crown.


And Chelsea will soon discover that travelling from Barking to Buckingham Palace takes more than a topped-up Oyster Card.


This is one Royal Wedding you won't want to miss ...!


Background


Starring Tori Allen-Martin as Chelsea, with music by Luke Bateman (Mr Popper's Penguins), book and lyrics by Maz Evans (Who Let The Gods Out) and directed by Daniel Winder (Iris' artistic director, most recently Macbeth at St Paul's Church).


First written in 2015 as a commission by Iris Theatre's Workin Process scheme, and now freshly re-imagined, H.R.Haitch comes to the Union Theatre this May in its first fully-staged production.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Monday 14 May 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

With a royal wedding almost upon us, this regal romp of a musical couldn't have landed in a more timely or topical fashion.


For the big idea here is that a prince of the realm wants to marry a commoner from ... Barking.


Not such a romantic location in which to acquire a royal bride, you might think, but that's all part of the contrast between the two families that people this deliberately potty plot.


For the opening scene, we find ourselves in a pub complete with large TV screen on which news reports are displayed.


Tori Allen-Martin's Chelsea is a down-to-earth, East London girl with a penchant for taking selfies and Louis Vuitton bags.


She lives at the pub with her Nan and Dad and is dating Bertie, an astonishingly naive young man she met at catering college.


What she doesn't initially know is that Bertie is actually the unknown Prince Albert, but she has to be told about his royal connections when Bertie decides to pop the question.


The earthy East London humour one might expect to find in the conversations of a run-of-the-mill Barking pub gets hijacked here by the ruling monarch, Queen Mary (Andrea Miller), who turns out to be right regally foul-mouthed as she targets members of her family with a stream of vulgar remarks when we first meet her.


Though that raised giggles among the audience, some of the lewd comments from her son Prince Richard (the ageing heir to the throne) didn't raise a vague titter, even from the well-hardened press pack.


A running gag about mini-cabs becomes quickly stale, failing to raise even a groan from the audience on its final outing.


And another running joke, based on Theresa May's "Brexit means Brexit" mantra, also soon becomes lame.


In the music department, there's a commendable array of singing voices on offer.


But though some of the tunes are inoffensively pleasant, sometimes bordering on the hummable, they generally don't provide the striking vehicles for the cast to show their real capabilities.


That's especially true with Tori Allen-Martin who never seems to be particularly stretched with her musical numbers, though there are moments when her undoubted vocal talents are evident.


Christian James also has an impressive, robust singing voice and copes admirably with some of the more ludicrous qualities his character is required to effect, and finds a suitably playful, if excessive naivety for Bertie.


Emily Jane Kerr likewise impresses in both her singing and as the conniving and manipulative Princess Victoria who wants to grab the crown for herself.


The topical gloss of this absurd plot will undoubtedly fade in due course, so the longevity of this, rather lacklustre musical farce is questionable.


Overly reliant on unsophisticated humour and well-worn ideas like running gags, H.R.HAITCH. feels limp, unsubtle and unrefined, and without really strong musical numbers to offset those deficiencies, there's little left to make it stand out among the musical pack.



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