Review: Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, Camden People’s Theatre

There are many things you might associate with the Queen Mother. Her favourite tipple, The Belgian; organ music; group sex? Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer immerses you in the surreal world of the Royalist David, who turns to his idol the Queen Mother for advice on love, marriage, and believe it or not, chemsex.

Living in London and about to return to his native Glasgow to marry the woman of his mother’s dreams, closet homosexual David is holding an orgy for fellow monarchists to get enough sex to last him a lifetime. And you are the unwitting guests.

As you make your way down into the basement of the Camden People’s Theatre and knock on the door labelled The Queen Mother Appreciation Society it feels like you shouldn’t be there. Off the beaten track, among cleaning equipment and typical function room debris, the setting is perfect for this unusual event.

As the crowd fills the seats David prepares the unsavoury scene with savoury snacks. Emptying individual bags of Mini Cheddars one by one onto a plate, there are bursts of incredulous laughter from the growing audience. A steely gazed David G. Lees who plays the character of the same name, miraculously keeps a straight face as he readies his selection of biscuits, blender, and an ominous plate of Durex condoms. This is kid’s birthday party meets fetishist rave.

The hour you spend in the basement of Camden People’s Theatre is chock-full of surreal, purposefully awkward moments as the audience gradually learns more and more about David and his life through his monologue. Every word and slow deliberate action is calculated for comic effect, and Lees puts in a terrific performance as this quasi-religious Royalist-cum-sexual pervert.

Whether it’s the fish broth brewing in the background which later acts as the incense for the séance where David speaks with the Queen Mother via knocks from under the table (played by good sport Paul Haworth), or the lasers that illuminate the room causing David to quip “It’s like the Ministry of Sound”, the play is committed to making the surreal as realistic as possible.

And it’s in the extreme commitment to making it feel real that the play truly succeeds in delighting the audience. David doesn’t just talk about the Queen Mother’s favourite drink, he uses a blender to concoct his version of The Belgian, and passes the drink church-hall style around in polystyrene cups. Incredulous, yet trusting, audience members tentatively take a sip, and you forget you’re watching a play. You’re at a Queen Mother-inspired orgy.

Ridiculous and often intensely awkward, this is one of the most imaginative pieces of theatre I have seen in a long time.  The Lees-Haworth comedy duo have a great future ahead of them.

Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer played Camden People’s Theatre until May 14.

Photo: Paul Haworth