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Royal Wedding Satire Debuts at Leicester Square

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Theatre satirist Justin Butcher, author of politically charged satire hits The Madness of George Dubya and A Weapons Inspector Calls, now turns his attention to the royal family and the furore surrounding tomorrow’s Royal Wedding. The Prisoner of Windsor, with an alternative subtitle of The King’s Spit, will receive its world premiere at the Leicester Square Theatre, running for a limited season from 20 May to 11 June 2011 (previews from 15 May).

Still being written – and rewritten on the basis of events tomorrow and the weeks that follow – the new musical comedy is billed as an up-to-the-minute response on the “World Wide Wed”. It takes inspiration from this year’s multi award-winning film The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth, and plot-wise, is very loosely based on Anthony Hope’s 1894 novel about an Englishman with a resemblance to a prince who is employed as a political decoy when the prince is kidnapped on the eve of his coronation.

In The Prisoner of Windsor, Wills loses his nerve as the voice coaching lessons from someone not un-akin to Geoffrey Rush fall on deaf ears. As luck would have it, one of Prince Phillip’s early eastern European excursions have resulted in a line of look-a-likes in the southern Romanian region, and, by uncanny coincidence, a recent immigrant and lowly Palace gardener “Romulus” is found to fill Wills’ shoes. Can he fulfil a nation’s hopes and rekindle the ailing heart of broken Britain?

Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Justin Butcher explained that the real target for his latest satire is not Prince William and Kate Middleton nor the House of Windsor, but more widely, a reaction to the “pseudo-Churchillian, post-World War II promise that a Royal Wedding is going to cheer us all up” and distract people from “the mess we’ve got ourselves into as a society”.

He said: “A certain amount of poking fun at the low-hanging fruit of the royal family is there, of course, but there’s no malice for the royal couple or for their wedding celebrations. This is actually a satire about ‘broken Britain’, the cuts, the Coalition and all of that.”

And The Prisoner of Windsor will play heavily on the “public narrative”. Butcher assumes that audiences will have witnessed tomorrow’s event, and we’ll come to The Prisoner of Windsor to get “the Noises Off version of the Royal Wedding”. “You saw all the pageantry, now here’s what really happened behind the scenes,” he joked.

Butcher’s 2003 comedy The Madness Of George Dubya, written in response to the Iraq War, had an extended West End season at the Arts Theatre, received global media coverage and was hailed by the Guardian as a catalyst for the re-politicisation of British theatre. Its sequel, A Weapons Inspector Calls: Guantanamo Baywatch was also produced in the West End in the run-up to the November 2004 US presidential election.

Butcher’s other credits include the Whatsonstage.com Award-winning one-man show Scaramouche Jones, which he co-created with the late Pete Postlethwaite. It continues to tour internationally since its launch at the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2001.

The Prisoner of Windsor is written and directed by Justin Butcher, with music by Harvey Brough. It’s presented by Leicester Square Theatre in association with Passion Pit Theatre.


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