Boring Prince Bertie of Belgium and the Attempted Wedding of 1850
POPPY MCLEAN is thoroughly impressed by this new farce at the ADC.
I was nervous to review this play. As every GCSE student has learned to their cost, to talk critically about humour is to smother it violently in its sleep with its own wit.
Mercifully though, as we began our colourful, late-night journey into the absurd, it soon became clear how the ADC’s – regrettably small – audience could not help but respond to the comedy before them. This play was, to use the recognised technical term, absolutely bloody brilliant.
The plot centres around the imminent wedding of Italy’s daring and strong-headed Princess Isabella to the infamously uninspiring Prince Bertie – Belgium’s answer to… well, Belgium.
The absence of the groom himself is perhaps the only blot on this clearly flawless plan – that, and the fact that Britain, France and Russia are all determined to substitute their own representative grooms for Princess Isabella’s hand. So ensues an ever-accelerating whirlwind of mistaken identities, abductions, men in drag and even the odd gimp-suited organ-scholar – and why not?
Amidst all this galloping action, another marriage, equally significant, is taking place: that between a hilarious script and a vibrant, dynamic cast. Marcus Martin deserves admiration for concocting a plot just complex enough to create that warm, fuzzy ‘I-don’t-actually-know-who-anyone-is-anymore-but-I’m-actually-having-too-much-fun-to-care’ feeling, without losing any of the audience through excessive mental entanglement.
He also managed an impressive variety in the humour: within a few lines you find political jibes, meta-theatrical jokes, literary quips and good old-fashioned ‘Hah! That’s a bloke in a dress’. Awesome stuff.
The cast milked that script for all it was worth. Everyone brought huge energy and colour to their roles – even if, by the end of the evening, some accents were noticeably ‘liberated’ from their geographical roots. Some, though, had the audience chucking whatever they were doing on stage: particularly memorable were Suchitra Sebastian as a dissident servant with aspirations to the literary and Beth Dubow as an increasingly cougar-esque English monarch.
Perhaps the night’s highlight had to be Haydn Jenkins as the hapless Leo, left to impersonate Isabella, simpering desperately in falsetto and the face of yet another proposal, with no defence but his princess’ borrowed skirts and a tousled brunette wig to keep him from impending matrimony. What a play.
The lively and well-paced delivery of the cast brought the sparkling script to its full potential, meaning the odd sound hiccup or premature cue-taking was soon forgotten. What was less easily forgotten was the sensation with which we in the theatre were left as the curtain fell for the final time.
We had not only had great fun ourselves in experiencing the antics on stage, we’d also seen some degree of just how much fun the cast were having as they acted it – and we’d shared that enjoyment with them. Basically, if you like being happy, go and see this play.