[author-post-rating] (3/5 stars) It ain’t over til it’s over, as they say, and this is an apt summary of William Gaminara’s The Three Lions. Quite why anyone would want to dramatise the build-up to England’s bid to host the 2016 World Cup is unclear to me, but Gaminara has a good stab at making it exciting – albeit with the burden that we know England didn’t win.
This is not so much a show of two halves as a show of eight-ninths and one-ninth: the last 10 minutes are brilliant, but boy does it take a long time to get there. You could play a whole football game in the 90mins that this play takes to show us what Gaminara has imagined happening backstage in the minutes before David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William pitch to host the World Cup. Amidst tabloid rumours of scandal at FIFA and an increasingly paranoid David Cameron (Dugald Bruce-Lockheart) trying to avoid journalists and Nick Clegg, we see what’s going on in the various hotel rooms.
A frazzled intern, Penny, is played well by Alice Bailey-Johnson, as she tries to co-ordinate the egos and trousers of these three men. A series of unfortunate events lead to both the prince and the Prime Minister losing their trousers at different points, and trying to conceal this from the waiting press. The last ten minutes of the play are a proper trouser-dropping, trouser-swapping farce, with some positively Fawlty Towers-esque bedroom escapades going on, too, but they are far and away the most amusing parts of the play.
It’s brilliantly acted – particularly by Bruce-Lockheart as Cameron. He is so good, in fact, that it was hard to restrain myself from punching him in the face, especially as Ganimara’s script makes Cameron racist, sexist, condescending and generally thoroughly unpleasant. “Who’d have thought one little duck house and moat would cause so much trouble?”, he muses, making it difficult to get over how deeply unlikeable he is and to concentrate on what plot there is. Sean Browne is good as Beckham, although the poor man’s supposed stupidity is played up for laughs to such an extent that it borders on cruel.
The narrative feels thin, to me, but I imagine that to a football-loving crowd it is perfect dramatic fodder. Although it wasn’t really my ball game, others in the audience seemed to love it – and to find the whole thing hilarious. It comes alive in its closing stages, but it wasn’t enough to lift the rest of the play for me.
The Three Lions is at Pleasance Courtyard until 26 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.