Thursday, 12 August 2021

REVIEW: The Windsors: Endgame at the Prince of Wales Theatre

Heading out to The West End on a Tuesday evening feels like an activity from a time gone by with everything that has happened (or not happened) over the last year and a half, however, despite the world being in a seemingly perpetual state of uncertainty, proven time and again is that there is no better medicine for an existential crisis than a night of pure comic chaos and parody. Following the tradition of what British comedy does best by reminding London how to laugh at itself is the stage adaptation of the popular Channel 4 TV series The Windsors, in, The Windsors: Endgame. This farcical soap opera about the lives of the British royal family will be sure to cure any lockdown hangovers still present.

Playing at The Prince of Wales Theatre from August 10 to October 9, this show promises to be a night of silly fun and allows life to be a little less serious for a moment. Whether or not you are a devout royalist and especially for any fan’s of the television series, Endgame is jam-packed with all the scandal and drama that keeps the royal family in power, and will make you laugh at jokes you really think you shouldn't!

Written by Bert Tayler and the late George Jeffrie (writers of the series) and directed by Michael Fentiman, this team have put many feet right for this risky stage adaptation. The premiss of the show revolves around the abdication of The Queen (dear old Lizzie) which puts Prince Charles (Harry Enfield) into the driving seat of the monarchy which is much to the delight of his power-hungry wife Camilla The Dutchess of Cornwall (Tracy-Ann Oberman). The impressionable ‘mature’ king, with dreams of a better world, one that embraces his love of the environment and leaping red squirrels, is convinced by his beloved that the only way to achieve his dream is by ruling as an absolute monarch. When he agrees to do this, the United Kingdom reverts into a medieval-like time and mayhem ensues. In response, the ‘fab four’ Wills (Ciaran Owens), Kate (Kara Tointon), Harry (Tom Durant-Prichard) and Meghan (Crystal Condie) are forced to set aside contemporary scandals and differences to rise above the carnage being created. All the while the washed-up Fergi (Sophie-Louise Dann), disgraced Prince Andrew (Tim Wallers), Eugenie (Eliza Butterworth), Beatrice (Jenny Rainsford) and Prince Edward (Matthew Cottle) naively navigate their place in the family. Although impossible in real life and a totally ridiculous plot, the show directly makes a dig at what power actually means and more to the point questions why these buffoons have it! However, when there are people out there producing the kind of comic material and entertainment you can’t makeup, I challenge you to imagine of a world without them!

Comedy legend Harry Enfield as Charles is by far one of the drawcards for this production. With a reimagining of his portrayal of the man who may never become king, for a live audience, he does not disappoint. There are plenty of ‘in’ jokes carried on from the television series thrown into his performance but at the same time, they do not exclude new audiences. Oberman as Charles’s counterpart Camilla embodies the Duchess as if she were a villain in a pantomime. At times this pushes the cringe factor a little over the edge, however, Oberman also offers one of the standout moments in the show with a powerhouse musical solo number that will have the late Princess Diana turning in her grave and is something you never knew you needed in your life.

The Fab Four bounce off each other with ease as they dysfunctionally attempt to save their subjects and moments of pure physical gold in their performances owes credit to movement director Tash Holloway. 

The supporting characters to the real-life royal family and in this version too, drive the energy and many of the shows laughs. Runt of the royal’s Prince Edward played by Cottle is a perfect clown in his multi-role performance while Dann as the cast out Fergie finds a balance between pathos and simply being pathetic. With Prince Andrew being the most disapproved of royal in current times by far, Wallers has a juicy role to play with and most certainly enjoys it. Butterworth and Rainsford as Princess Eugenie and Beatrice, the well-intended duo famous for doing nothing are a delight whenever they enter the stage.

I have to give a nod to vocal coach Patricia Lougue for the pure joy each exaggerated vocal interpretation the cast bring to their characters, costumes by Hilary Lewis that touch on each royals aesthetic perfectly and the overall design that supports the high energy action without taking over.

Although the subject matter covered in this satire borders on cruel at times, and at the end of the day the lives of real people are being put onstage to be ridiculed to a degree, it is the job of the theatre to challenge and pick apart that which we identify so strongly with as a nation. In reality, questions brought up about the debate regarding the relevance of the monarchy are greater than any one character in the show and deep down we know this is all in fun.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: G34 | Price of Ticket: £16 -£110
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