Think it’s too soon for Prince Andrew jokes? Don’t go and see The Windsors
If you tend to put the Royal family on a pedestal, you may wish to avoid this subtle as whooping cough, boisterous, slightly ramshackle piece of lèse-majesté. But if you are willing to embrace the lunacy, you will be rewarded with a filthily funny 90 minutes or so of broadbrush satire which will have you giggling like a naughty schoolchild all the way home.
It’s based on Channel 4’s hit sitcom (but with musical numbers), and features several of that show’s cast, including Harry Enfield as Prince Charles. Fans will know what to expect – Camilla is a power hungry megalomaniac in waiting; William and Kate are a strait-laced, Boden-loving force for good; Beatrice and Eugenie are vowel-mangling Sloanes who don’t seem to do anything very much. Andrew is, well…
On the day that a civil lawsuit was brought against the Duke of York by a woman who claimed he abused her when she was 17, there is an added resonance to the blunt satire which not everyone will find funny. Here, Andrew, played by Tim Wallers, is being helped by his daughters who are determined to clear his name.
In the song Innocent they opine: “But Daddy cannot sweat, we said, then watched their case unravelling/He’s not a shifty sweaty bloke who goes round Jimmy Saviling.” At the show’s end, the Duke appears handcuffed and dressed in an orange boiler suit. You don’t get nearer the knuckle than this.
The main drive of the plot takes its lead from another treasonous piece of theatre – Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III. Here, following the abdication of the ageing Queen, Charles is crowned king, and, with Camilla pulling the strings, sends the UK back to a medieval feudal system where anarchy reigns and the crown has absolute power (the abuse of which includes burning down Sarah Beeny’s beautiful house in the country and peeing on the ashes).
Meanwhile, Wills and Kate are still at loggerheads with Harry and Meghan after THAT interview, a tension which is exacerbated when, in a drunken moment, Kate and Harry sleep together. Yet, the couples must unite to save dear old Blighty and overthrow the new regime.
Some critics will no doubt sniff at Michael Fentiman’s production – its slight pacing problems, its off-the-boil musical numbers which tend to merely serve the lyrics. But that is to be a killjoy and to ignore the thrill that you get from Bert Tyler-Moore and the late George Jeffrie’s scurrilous script, as well as the post-Covid joy of audience participation (something I normally shudder at).
At one point, we are invited by Matthew Cottle’s Prince Edward (who doubles as various flunkies throughout) to shout “You’ve only got one O level” at Tracy-Ann Oberman’s hissably evil Camilla.
Oberman is the strongest of the performers here (she is one of several cast members not in the series, others include the actresses playing Beatrice and Eugenie), resplendent in an Elizabeth I Gloriana costume and terrific fun at every step, spitting venom in her song Diana, God Damn Her (“Did you see that bloody funeral?/Didn’t it go on and on?/All those people spouting platitudes/ And Elton f---ing John.”) and showing contempt for anyone who deigns to enter her orbit, even the rather underused Enfield as her husband.
There is good work, too, from another new recruit, Sophie Louise Dann’s Fergie, a slightly tragic figure forced by circumstances into being Harry and Meghan’s domestic help and still dreaming of the Eighties high life.
Despite the cartoon characterisation that the script demands, Dann somehow manages to convey a vulnerability which becomes almost moving at certain points.
And that is the thing with The Windsors. For all its lack of depth, you end up liking almost every single member of the family. Accidentally, it feels like a good PR exercise.
Booking until October 9. Tickets: 0844 482 5151; thewindsorsendgame.com/