A majestic new comedy has received its world premiere in London and the timing couldn’t be better. As we celebrate the Queens Platinum Jubilee, The Throne takes us back 20 years to 2002 when she was celebrating her Golden Jubilee.
The unusual premise of The Throne sees the Queen visiting Dudley Goring Comprehensive School to open their new Science block when she gets stuck inside the Portaloo that has been specially installed for her, alongside the Head of Science, Derek Jones. With the threat of a bomb planted by terrorists underneath them, the two have to wait it out as they await their fate.
While recent productions at Charing Cross Theatre have been staged in the round, The Throne returns to playing to one side of the venue, creating a more intimate setting (and it doesn’t get much more intimate than a portaloo). Directed by Anthony Biggs, all the action takes place in the static set of the portaloo, though are bookended by scenes in front of the raised setting to represent a different area of the school. A simple but accurate replica of the not so glamorous setting, it has several details hidden away which reveal themselves to create humorous moments, along with a fantastic use of props.
Charlie Condou plays the role of Dr Derek Jones. Wonderfully cutting and withdrawn, he is fantastic channelling the Republican teacher, who finds himself in the absurd situation. The role of the Queen is played by Mary Roscoe – utterly fabulous in her portrayal, she is a true highlight playing the mist famous woman in the world, bringing her own twist to the iconic character and making her quirkier than ever. They are joined by Michael Joel Bartelle in a small but memorable role as Peter Carr.
The odd couple dynamic is what elevates the humour in The Throne with the vast differences between Dr Jones and The Queen leading to some uncomfortable and unexpected dialogue. We have all had conversations where somebody has expressed their feelings about the Monarchy, whether they agree with it or not, but to imagine somebody expressing that to the Queen herself is so surreal, you can’t help but laugh at it.
Written by John Goldsmith, The Throne isn’t packed full of laughs, though a few are dotted around. It’s funniest aspect is the premise of which it is based, with the absurdity of the setting the most humorous thing about it. Though the writing must be commended, with some of the topics covered far more serious than they appear on the surface. While the contrast in tone may be intentional, it can be jarring to watch. Though thankfully the humour stays on the right side of crass with the only toilet humour being the setting itself.
Ultimately, The Throne is pleasant enough. At its surface it’s a silly little show though it does carry more substance than originally meets the eye. Though it bills itself as a comedy, the laughs are few are far between. A few more sharp one-liners wouldn’t have gone amiss to make the whole experience a bit more joyful. The fantastic acting and unique premise makes this an enjoyable night at the theatre, though maybe not a show that would sit on the throne as one of the best plays of the year.
The Throne plays at Charing Cross Theatre until July 30th. Tickets available from https://www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/
Photos by Tristram Kenton