The Crown Jewels
This is the royal event of the year.
The Crown Jewels is a riotous new comedy based on the most unbelievable royal caper in British history. Charismatic and unpredictable Colonel Blood is planning the greatest heist of all time: stealing the Crown Jewels in plain sight. With a gang of misfits by his side, what could possibly go wrong? But Charles II can’t afford a royal scandal, and no King likes people handling their Crown Jewels…
With an exceptionally star-studded cast, written by BAFTA-nominated creator of The Durrells and Men Behaving Badly, Simon Nye, and directed by multi-Olivier Award winner Sean Foley (Upstart Crow, The Ladykillers), it would be criminal to miss this raucous royal affair.
Al Murray, with his alter-ego The Pub Landlord, is one of the most successful British comedians, with over twenty years of sell-out and award-winning shows in the West End and arenas across the UK, as well as his own hugely popular WWII podcast and extensive TV career. Carrie Hope Fletcher is an actress, author, vlogger and award-winning West End sensation (Cinderella, Les Misérables, Heathers, The Addams Family). Mel Giedroyc is the much-loved TV presenter, writer, actress, well-known for her work alongside Sue Perkins and on shows such as The Great British Bake Off, panel shows and sitcoms as well as on stage, most recently in the Olivier award-winning Company. Joe Thomas is an actor, comedian and writer best known as Simon in the multi-award winning E4 show The Inbetweeners and Kingsley in Fresh Meat. Neil Morrissey is one of the country’s most popular television actors, well-known for numerous TV programmes such as the BBC sitcom Men Behaving Badly and the critically acclaimed Line Of Duty, alongside many stage productions including as Fagin in Oliver and Nathan in Guys and Dolls. Aidan McArdle is one of Ireland’s best-loved actors, with a long TV career including Jane Eyre, Mr Selfridge and Ridley. Tanvi Virmani is a recent acting graduate, making her professional stage debut as Miranda in Theatre Royal Bath’s The Tempest and her West End debut as Rani in Life of Pi.
The Crown Jewels Tickets
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The Crown Jewels ON TOUR
Our review on The Crown Jewels
The Crown Jewels - The Lowry, Salford - Wednesday 20th September 2023 by Karen Ryder
THE CROWN JEWELS FEATURES A STAR-STUDDED CAST WHO HAVE YOU IN STITCHES!
It’s not often such a star-studded cast tour a show around the UK but that’s exactly what is on offer with The Crown Jewels and it certainly has some pulling power. With an eclectic mix of fans in the audience to see the likes of Al Murray (The Pub Landlord), Mel Giedroyc (Mel & Sue, Great British Bake Off), Carrie Hope Fletcher (West End Leading Lady - Les Mis, Heathers), Aiden McArdle (RSC associate artist, Endeavour), Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly, Line Of Duty) and Joe Thomas (Inbetweeners, Fresh Meat), it was intriguing to see how everyone would get what they came for, and this is the unique selling point of the show. Of course, it is possible to find out in advance what the story is about – a retelling of the attempted theft of The Crown Jewels by Colonel Blood in 1671. A time when King Charles II ruled as the merry monarch and where mince pies, bananas, creamed ice and Oliver Cromwell’s head on a pike were things to behold.
But how would this history lesson fare in the hands of iconic comics, musical theatre stars, and TV giants? This question is easy to answer – it fares with organised chaos and frantic hilarity from a cast of seasoned professionals that live deliciously on the edge so may just take the script in any direction at any given moment, leaving you the audience, and indeed the cast themselves, never quite sure what might happen next. It is Black Adder, meets Monty Python, meets stand up comedy, and although the historical story and plenty of accurate facts are indeed jam packed into this production, there is also ample time and opportunity for a more creative slant on things.
An element I hadn’t considered was the style of speech and language used. It is kept mostly authentic of the historical time, ensuring that even though there are similar comedic approaches such as the aforementioned comparisons, The Crown Jewels does indeed stand alone and apart from what has gone before. This tale from our history is too ridiculous to be dealt with in anything but zany comedic terms, so it does seem to have found its righteous home. I mean, as its writer Simon Nye describes it:
“A character called Colonel Blood? Taking on the most engaging and high-wigged of all monarchs, Charles II? The Crown Jewels of England were guarded only by a 77-year-old ex solider who kept them basically in a cupboard? There’s more. Blood, an already celebrated wanted felon did the robbery dressed as a priest, wearing a false beard, assisted by an actress playing his wife. So we’re talking Ronald Biggs assisted by a plucky young Judy Dench.”
The show opens with Carrie Hope Fletcher belting out a song and reminding us in an instant of her undeniable talent. It is laden with historical quips and personality, and even introduces a splash zone for the first few rows, who indeed folks – may get wet! As the story unfolds, we realise that all the main cast multi role, enabling their varied skills to shine. Al Murray creates two clear cut and perfectly over the top characters in Charles II and Talbot Edwards. His Charles is spoken with the most brilliantly ridiculous over the top British accent and this alone is enough to make everyone corpse, but then when he demands an audience with his court (us), he really starts to shine and effortlessly blends script with stand up comedy, audience interaction and improvisation. The audience are made his subjects and as we are introduced to a few unsuspecting guests, a nervous excitement and energy starts to build, knowing that at any moment we could be next, only serves to fuel Murray and he is in his element. He flawlessly dips in and out of the script to make the whole thing so smooth, and this was possibly one of the highlights of the show for me.
Mel Giedroyc is a joy to behold and should definitely add more theatre to her successful career. Engaging, so at ease, and with the ability to make her fellow performers corpse with a mere laugh or raise of her eyebrow, it feels that the stage is truly where she belongs. From trying to sell her yeasty crown as Mrs. Edwards, to her genius comic timing as the French Noblewoman, where she is clearly in command. The combination of the flawless accent and the infectious laugh ensure you will be giggling along too and it turns into that kind of laughter when you can no longer even remember what you’re laughing at, you just know that you can’t stop. Aiden McArdle as Colonel Blood alongside Joe Thomas as his son and Neil Morrissey as Captain Perrot form a talented trio of tittering thieves. Their scenes together show a mutual respect and trust, and are filled with physical comedy such as bounding on and off tables, mis-timed sword fights, and the befuddlement and entanglement of their chains once in prison. Morrissey is clearly a mischievous performer and does his best to make his fellow cast member corpse at any given moment. This is apparent when he comes on and introduces himself as Mike Litorous – a name that leaves Murray trying his hardest to suppress his laughter and continue with the show, but failing miserably, which only serves to make the audience laugh harder.
The main cast is completed by Manchester’s own Adonis Siddique and last but not least, Tanvi Virmani. Siddique has comedy in his bones and has the audience laughing way before he has spoken a word, with his characterisation, mannerisms and physical comedy by merely changing the scenery. You find yourself awaiting his return and these moments are like gold dust. As his character is expanded, he excels at playing the slightly nervous, excited and eager to please footman of King Charles, with a brilliant smile that is making me smile now even recollecting it. Virmani is excellent at capturing Jenny Blaine, an actress who thinks she is much better than she is and creates this with a joyous daftness. Why walk from A to B when you can showcase your perceived talent as a dancer and prance from A to B. It is silliness at its best and carried out with great effect.
There are a few moments in the show that seem confusing, or the odd scene that seems unnecessary and out of place and left me wondering if I’d missed the punch line. These moments felt a little jumbled, bewildering and lost in translation and at times felt slightly awkward as no response was forth coming from the audience. But they were far and few between and the majority of the night was met with raucous laughter at a play that mocks its own history and our colonial past. A standing ovation at the end of the evening summed up the overall view of the audience and this hard working, quick witted, and playful cast deserved it. I was pleasantly surprised by The Crown Jewels and have come away with an endorsed and deeper respect for what is undoubtedly, a star studded cast.
WE SCORE THE CROWN JEWELS...
The Crown Jewels is on at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday 23rd September 2023.
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