After having a jolly good titter at the Machiavellian Miss Middleton in Princess in Waiting as part of Hampstead Theatre’s Heat&Light Routes last month, I was looking forward to another fun and fluffy satirical response to the Royal Wedding in Justin Butcher’s The Prisoner of Windsor.
Technically, everyone in the audience should be reimbursed for goods “not as described”. The Prisoner of Windsor is billed as a musical comedy and contains neither music nor laughs. For your musical whack, twice, an accordion crops up and the cast are press ganged into mumbling incoherently for three and a half minutes.
When a comedy’s funniest line is “Bulgaria for wind farms”, you’re in trouble. Pinching its set pieces from The Prince and the Pauper and Cyrano de Bergerac, and possibly many others classic texts that went over my head, this show is simply not funny.
Justin Butcher’s script attempted to be clever but efforts fall flat. Do you remember the irritatingly smug smart alec you met during Fresher’s week who had once read the dust jacket of Plato’s Republic and spent days regurgitating it back to you? He would love this show.
Indeed the whole event feels like a poorly cobbled together piece of pretentious student theatre. It would probably play out a lot better in a sticky bar to appreciative collected friends who would find it hilarious to see their mate in girl’s pants.
Some brief respite comes in a quick fire game of Strip Snap but even this doesn’t quite hit the mark. The epilogue is fun: if only the rest of the show had the same lightness of touch, it might have been better.
The cast aren’t to blame for the shambles. They solider on bravely through clouds of cotton wool beards and pound shop costumes. A poor script and cheap staging make for a thoroughly lacklustre affair. It is incredible to think how the production got to this stage. More incredible still will be if it survives its lengthy month long run.
The plucky actors and extremely congenial staff (seriously, call me) charmed me enough to stay on for the second act but not all of the audience managed to tough it out and many escaped from Prisoner’s tiresome shackles at the interval.
The Prisoner of Windsor is running at the Leicester Square Theatre until 11th June. For more information see the website here.