Love Upon the Throne at the Comedy Theatre
I seem to be alone in this but, to me, the National Theatre of Brent just are not funny.
The premise certainly is. The National Theatre of Brent is composed entirely of two middle-aged men - trainee Raymond Box (really actor John Ramm) and the improbably named artistic director Desmond Olivier Dingle (really Patrick Barlowe) of Dollis Hill, north London (in the borough of Brent). Both of them looking every inch the teeth-gratingly dull computer salesman - cheap, grey, polyester suit and specs.
Together, the two dramatise and bastardise significant and serious historic events. Previously, the French Revolution, the charge of the light brigade and the life of Christ, to name a few, have all received the Brent treatment. But now it is the turn of a subject much closer to the hearts of the British people - the love story of Charles and Diana. The young(er) Raymond, toupee slipping, plays Diana; Desmond plays Charles and the rest of the parts, including the Queen with signature pastel-blue handbag and Camilla Parker ‘Knowle (sic), are doled out between them.
Sounds funny, right? But, despite a few rib-tickling moments and a funky Java temple dance of the seven veils, something is lost between concept and execution. The mock amateurishness, the blinding gaffes and spoonerisms - all endearing at first, quickly become annoying. And the inevitable drumming up of audience participation sent me slinking down into my seat.
The scope of the piece also appears, already, anachronistic, finishing just where the marriage did and not touching on the terrors that followed, with which we are all so very familiar. The choice, of course, was deliberate but still left me feeling unfulfilled.
Then again, maybe just I have no sense of humour.
Love Upon the Throne debuted at the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe. It toured to the west London Bush Theatre and the Oxford Playhouse before transferring to the West End.