The Crown Jewels

“The Crown Jewels emerges as a delightful theatrical experience"

Shining with a cast of exceptional talent, from the worlds of musical theatre, comedy, and television, "The Crown Jewels" is a theatrical gem that sparkles with wit and charm. One of the standout performances comes from none other than Al Murray, who breathes life into the character of Charles II. With idiosyncratic movements and infectious laughter, Murray brilliantly differentiates this role from his other as Talbot Edwards.

A particular highlight is when Al Murray, portraying Charles II, not only breaks the fourth wall but also seamlessly weaves an unscripted style stand-up comedy moment into the fabric of the play. Engaging the audience and playfully bantering with various attendees, Murray's comedic genius shines even brighter against the backdrop of historical authenticity. His reactions and responses to the audience perfectly align with the time period, turning this moment into a comedy highpoint.

Yet, it's not just Murray who steals the spotlight. Addonis Siddique, portraying a footman, injects the stage with boundless energy and optimism. His dynamic interactions with the King create an electric chemistry that lifts the scenes they share. Siddique's portrayal of a character navigating royal whims and quirky requests is a masterclass in comedic timing and delivery.

Carrie Hope Fletcher graces the production with her beautiful voice, a clear reflection of director Sean Foley's artistic vision. Fletcher's singing prowess is showcased splendidly throughout the play, making her the only performer to sing, apart from the finale. However, some moments within the narrative seem to hold back from fully immersing the performers into their roles, preventing them from fully showing their potential.

A particularly enchanting scene involving a map and a cast of puppets provides a fleeting taste of wonder. One can't help but wish this whimsical segment had been extended, perhaps akin to the exuberant chases found in classic cartoons. Unfortunately, the moment concludes almost as soon as it begins, leaving the audience yearning for more of its magic.

The performance, while undeniably captivating, finds itself walking a fine line between various theatrical elements. Whether this hesitance to fully commit is a result of Simon Nye's script or Sean Foley's direction remains a curious question. The play showcases moments reminiscent of pantomime, especially evident in the lively song and endearing 'dame'-style interactions. However, the intricate and visually stunning set might be deemed too grand for the traditional pantomime aesthetic, leaving room for speculation on how a more painted backdrop might add a touch of whimsy.

Amidst the chuckles and guffaws, the play flirts with moments that could easily slip into "Carry On" territory—playful innuendos and a parental tête-à-tête about Elizabeth Edwards' revealing attire come to mind. Nevertheless, the production sidesteps that as she enters wearing more than the previous scene.

Additionally, glimpses of absurdity reminiscent of "Monty Python" pepper the performance. Cast members' grins and eye contact accompany the rotation of set pieces, punctuating scenes with an irresistible sense of playfulness. While it may take a bit of time for the audience to fully acclimate to the play's distinctive blend of comedy, the effort is undoubtedly worth it. The ability to weave humour into historical settings can be a challenging feat, yet "The Crown Jewels" manages to strike that balance beautifully.

In conclusion, "The Crown Jewels" emerges as a delightful theatrical experience that intertwines a captivating cast, historical intrigue, and humour. It's a production that takes a bit of time to warm up to, but once it finds its rhythm, the laughter flows freely. In an era where comedy can be demanding, this play navigates the challenge with grace and flair, leaving audiences with an evening of mirthful entertainment.

This show was reviewed on the 9th August 2023.  The Crown Jewels runs at the Garrick Theatre until the 16th September 2023.  Tickets available here: The Crown Jewels - A riotous new comedy (crownjewelsplay.com)

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides

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Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

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