Thursday, 7 July 2022

REVIEW: The Throne at the Charing Cross Theatre

We're all familiar with icebreakers on training courses. One question that often crops up is 'who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?' Some may opt for the positive alternative, but the nightmare scenario is always more challenging and mischievous. The Throne presents the same proposition in an unusual and novel plot. What if an avowed anti-monarchist was trapped in a toilet with the Queen during her Golden Jubilee? It's certainly on message with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations still fresh in the memory. This new play by John Goldsmith is a witty take on extremes and how common ground can still be found. But it also raises valid questions about the value and role of the monarchy.

The action takes place in 2002 as Dudley Goring School is excitedly planning for a visit by the Queen (Mary Roscoe). However, Derek Jones (Charlie Condou), the school's Head of Science can muster no such enthusiasm. A committed republican and dedicated socialist, the last thing he needs is a royal visit. Meanwhile, headmaster Peter Carr (Michael Joel Bartelle) can barely contain himself as he surveys a specially installed Portaloo for the Queen's personal use. With impeccable timing, Derek uses the Portaloo just as the visit begins. Inevitably she catches Derek on the throne. But they are subsequently locked in by terrorists who have planted a bomb underneath. Any attempt to escape will detonate the bomb. As they wait for fate to take its course how will they cope in such close proximity to each other?

Any play that pitches two opposites against each other has to reach a point where they compromise. This happens relatively early in the piece. You expect the Queen's charm to eventually break Derek's resolve but he folds without much of a fight. It, therefore, becomes a mainly intellectual discussion about class, religion and the constitutional basis for the monarchy. All of which is fine but this can be heavy going sometimes. The science teacher discussing philosophy with Britain's longest-serving monarch is not the easiest conversation to imagine. It benefits greatly from moments of light relief which appear more frequently in Act II. John Goldsmith has created a lucid and intelligent script that treads a very fine  line between lecture and laughter. To wrap opposing views in a likeable character like Derek creates a reference point for open discussion, whilst the Queen is given a voice we rarely hear. Mary Roscoe perfectly captures the mannerisms and intonation of the Queen. Charlie Condou provides an ideal foil as the Monarch's unlikely sparring partner. Overall, this is an enjoyable cantor through the pros and cons of the monarchy with an agreeable outcome. 

Review by Brian Penn

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls | Price of Ticket: A £36.50/Stalls B £29.50/Stalls C £22.00

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