Review: The Crown Dual
Image courtesy James Seabright
Rosie Holt as Beth Buckingham
Brendan Murphy as Stanley Diamond
Having been cruelly overlooked for her dream role as Queen Elizabeth in blockbuster series The Crown, budding starlet Beth brings her own take on the epic story of the Royal Family to the stage instead … with her agent Stanley coerced into playing (almost) all the other roles - from Prince Philip to Princess Margaret, and all the commoners in between.
Two actors reimagine the story of how Elizabeth Windsor became Queen Elizabeth II (and recreate two resplendent Netflix series) in 70 minutes of frenetic hat-passing, period accents and corgi impressions.
A perfect winter warmer for both fans of the show keenly waiting for the third series - and for those wondering what all the fuss is about!
This new comedy comes from the pen of parodic mastermind Daniel Clarkson, co-creator of Olivier Award nominated hit shows Potted Potter and Potted Panto, and is directed by Owen Lewis, also an Olivier Award nominee for Morecambe and Wise homage Eric and Little Ern.
Performances on 27 January and 24 February are exclusive work in progress showings with all seats at £10, ahead of the full run of the show from 12 March to 6 April.
Two actors playing an actor and her agent play a young Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh and a multitude of other characters ... in a nutshell, that is the basic format here for what is essentially a parody of the Netflix hit, The Crown.
Based in the depths of Sevenoaks, Stanley Diamond is an agent with only 1 client actor, Beth Buckingham.
Though Stanley seems more interested in selling us replacement windows and other home-improvement essentials (presumably to bolster his meagre income from the acting profession) he's persuaded by Beth to join with her to portray Elizabeth Windsor's transition to monarchy and the early days of her reign.
That set-up allows for the introduction of a number of other well-known characters from those times, including the Queen's gin-swilling sister, Princess Margaret, her suitors - Group Captain Townsend and Antony Armstrong-Jones - and a plethora of note-worthies ripe for lampooning, including an ageing Winston Churchill.
And no comic endeavour about the royal family would be complete without corgis putting in an appearance ... and a penguin (don't ask).
Audience participation features right from the start when we have to get to our feet (some of us through gritted teeth) to greet the Queen's arrival into the auditorium at the start.
But there's lots more audience involvement throughout this show, and that actually offers some of the best bits in the entire piece, largely thanks to game participants who complete their assigned tasks with good-natured and humorous aplomb, especially in the coronation scene.
At least one of the jokes - a play on the word Jamaica - is almost as old as the monarchy itself, but others are a little more novel such as some (intentionally) borderline vulgar ones that we get from the stammering George VI, as well as a variety of visual gags which surface throughout.
There are also some running jokes - one involving a phone which gets passed around the audience - and social media jargon, plus characters from other cultural forms who were to appear later in the 20th century and beyond, also figure in the overall recipe in Daniel Clarkson's enjoyable concoction.
Owen Lewis more or less keeps control of proceedings with his direction - if that's the right term to use when exaggeration and overstatement, such as Churchill's painfully doddering walk, is a significant feature of a show in which we occasionally totter on the brink of complete ridiculousness.
Actually, The Crown Dual never dives over the precipitous edge of the totally bizarre or completely out-of-hand, even if it seems like it might be making strenuous efforts to do so.
And that's largely down to the combined comedic efforts of acting team Rosie Holt and Brendan Murphy, whose deft talent, considerable charm and pretty-much spot-on timing carry events along at a lively pace and work the audience with manipulative confidence and success.
There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in the show, and it improves as it moves along, even if some fine-tuning in places might take it to a much higher level, comedically speaking.
Still, there's more than enough fun in this show as it stands to make for an entertaining and diverting night out.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for King's Head Theatre
Our show listing for The Crown Dual
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