The premise Buckingham’s Finest is one that makes it ripe for satire. Speculation on The Royal Family behind closed doors has been the mincemeat for tenacious sketches from Spitting Image and Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression. For this play to supercede the comedic canon, Who Dunnett Productions needed to be fresh and original. Unfortunately, this play is neither fresh nor original, delivering infantile gags with little more than cursory reference to the subject of parody itself. The production seemed to be under the illusion that the consumption of porn mags, Budweiser and marijuana by the interminably posh constitutes a satire. Their choice to set the play in the year of 1997, covering Tony Blair’s first visit to Windsor as Prime Minister and, of course, the death of Princess Diana.
There was a notable lack of conviction, energy and ability within the cast, with just a few exceptions. While Hattie Lloyd was disappointing as The Queen, displaying sloppy delivery and no determinable attempt to adopt any features of the lady herself in anything other than wig, she was overshadowed by actors with a greater knack for clowning (such as Ian Dunnett, as her son, Charles), failing to take her times in the spotlight to do anything interesting with the character but struggle to recite her words. As Prince Phillip, Adum Bisset tried to resuscitate a lacklustre shooting game between William and Harry with a few well-timed gags but unfortunately the jokes were so toxic that it had the same effect as breathing mustard gas into a corpse. Whilst some of the cast corpsed themselves with the discomfort of having no reason to be on stage, others committed to wholly nonsensical roles. Donald (Ross White) the Scottish butler, a pointless role that could have been played equally well by a dog with opposable thumbs, soldiered on admirably with his shallow doggerel verse - at least, if they had made the role a corgi instead, we, as well as White, might have been spared the bemusement.
The production did manage to treat the topic of Diana with sensitivity; with clever direction, the media storm was whipped up on stage and was perhaps the most effective scene of the play, yet, to introduce a subject such as this in a comedy drama and give it but a few minutes of attention before hopping along to a faux simulated sex scene between Phil and Queenie demonstrated the production’s lack of commitment to following through with the promises it set up with its topical forecasting references to a binge-drinking Harry or a Philip with a dodgy waterworks.
Those with only a passing knowledge (like, maybe knowing their names, that the granny’s on the pound, or something) to the current British monarchy are more likely to enjoy this off-the-wall farce. I am certainly no monarchist but such is my enthusiasm for mockery of the Royal Family I have a Google Alert for ‘Prince Philip + Racist’ and I suppose that, with so much material, I expected a little too much.