The Three Lions (St James Theatre)
William Gaminara's Edinburgh hit play makes its London debut
December 2010, three of the UK's most influential men met in a Swiss hotel room to plot their bid to host the 2018 football World Cup. But William Gaminara's The Three Lions is less about the beautiful game and more about the game of power, status and corruption.
The three men in question are former footballer, worldwide superstar and fashion icon David Beckham (Sean Browne), Aston Villa supporter and second in line to the throne Prince William (Tom Davey) and tory Prime Minister David Cameron (Dugald Bruce-Lockhart). You would be hard pushed to find three men as powerful as these in the UK but as the play progresses, it becomes apparent their status is the only thing this trio have in common.
Gaminara plays on Beckham's naive schoolboy public persona; he struggles to grasp that Iberia - Spain and Portugal - is two countries and not three, takes far too long to work out how old he'll be in 2018 and is overly proud of a lego model of the Taj Mahal he's been building ("I'm hoping to get the Statue of Liberty for my birthday"). Browne is the spitting image of 'Golden Balls', although sometimes it feels his impersonation gets in the way of the play.
Davey's Prince William - they've been kind to him with his generously full wig - is similarly buffoonish, playing practical jokes on the two Davids and attempting to appeal to both by employing 'Yah!' or 'Defo!' depending on whether he is addressing the Old Etonian or young Chingford Foundation School-ian.
At the centre of the action is Bruce-Lockhart's Prime Minister, attempting to hold the bid together like a secondhand car salesman desperately trying to make a sale. He's full of wide gestures and Tory sentimentality, forcing the others to drink gallons of water as recommended by Enoch Powell ("No not Baden Powell, David").
The Three Lions is a very funny play, extended from its original (and apt) 90 minutes length to a more commercial-theatre-friendly two hours, although no moment seems superfluous and strong support from Antonia Kinlay and Ravi Aujla means the pace never slips.
It's a game of two halves, blisteringly funny but also an interesting examination of how these three prominent figures would interact with each other. Becks and Cameron are the team captains and Prince William switches sides throughout the play, in the end Cameron is the only one who comes off the pitch with an ounce of sanity, maybe not what Gaminara was attempting, but entertaining all the same.
Gaminara's mix of comedy and exposé - there's talk of bribes (or incentives), press collusion and extramarital sex - is much like supporting Aston Villa: you'll be appalled, shocked and spend most of the time laughing your head off at the stupidity of those centre-stage. But even if you're not a footie fan you'll find this a thoroughly enjoyable evening.