A Royal Flush

Sat 6th – Fri 26th August 2016

reviews

Emma Taylor

at 08:52 on 15th Aug 2016

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‘A Royal Flush’, by Cat O' Nine Tales and New Celts Productions, is a play consisting of a Portaloo, a fake princess, a news tabloid and two builders. It sounds like the build up to a bad joke, but here these miscellaneous objects lead to comedy gold. The two builders kidnap a princess on the Portaloo, hoping for a ransom from the newspaper, but predictably it all goes horribly wrong.

What should be commended about this show is that it does not turn down the path into farce with predictable childish humour, something that would have been all too easy with the existence of the Portaloo. The plot is intelligent and provides a rich cast of characters, creating two sets of characters who balance perfectly. In the newspaper office Christopher, the new guy, counters Simon, a hilariously annoying colleague who is both arrogant and clueless, but gifted with some amazing one liners. On the other side there are two builders, Andy and Lee, who, despite being kidnappers, are touchingly naïve and childish (their chosen criminal names are Laser Claw and Dragonfly).

Jokes come thick and fast, and although some do fall flat, others flourish. What does appear slightly incongruous, and seemingly surplus to the show, is the subplot in which Andy is kicked out of Lee’s new housing plans. Although meant to add a shot of emotion, it simply detracts from the main plot, is never really resolved, and splits the otherwise impeccable comedy duo.

Overall, the acting is impressive. The medley of accents adds interest and are all convincing. All of the characters are fully believable, even if they are larger-than-life stock characters, and jokes are delivered with exactly the right dose of sarcasm. A key issue that the show does aim to tackle is the losing battle the printed press are fighting against the rise of the digital media. Everyone with a twitter account, Simon cries, is a journalist now – a valid and poignant point to make, although one can’t quite help but feel that the defence of the newspapers should not be in the hands of what is a comically arrogant and clueless character. The character does, however, personify what is going wrong with the printed press – arrogance, backwardness and dubious morals. This is an aspect of the show that needs to be explored more.

‘A Royal Flush’, therefore, is more than a show about a princess trapped in a Portaloo. It is a critique about the role of newspapers today, shown through a variety of characters. Luckily, it manages to be very funny at the same time.

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Dominic Leonard

at 10:47 on 15th Aug 2016

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For a play that at one point wonders whether a member of the Royal Family being kidnapped by ISIS can be blamed on Jeremy Corbyn, this play had something quite serious to say. The plotline is like something straight out of Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’; Princess Beatrice has been inadvertently kidnapped by two hopelessly stupid builders, and are demanding £50,000 from a newspaper for her safe release. The play takes place in two locations on-stage: the site of the portaloo where the princess is trapped, and in the office of a young journalist, Christopher, fresh out of university, as they interact via phone calls and Skype calls.

The cast is fantastic – the builders, Andy and Lee (played by Joe Walsh and Alex Card respectively) have a brilliant chemistry despite them both being as thick as each other, and the dynamic between Christopher and Simon (Lewis Lauder and Calum Ferguson) in the office is reminiscent of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s interaction in ‘Extras’. Kate Foley-Scott as ‘the princess’ also adds an extra burst of energy in the final act when the play runs the risk of riding too long on the funny dynamics of the same characters, a wonderfully intelligent and incorrigible Geordie who acts as a great foil to the utterly clueless kidnappers.

With the set laid out as it is, and the actors never leaving the stage, those in darkness would sometimes continue acting – this was occasionally distracting, averting the eyes when the focus should have been entirely on the other side of the stage. The jokes are sometimes genuinely funny, but occasionally the laughs were somewhat forced – some of the awkward conversation came off as just quiet and awkward, and many of the jokes didn’t land properly with the audience. The length of the play is also something of an issue, taking many jokes and sucking them dry rather than letting them survive on their own. In fact, the hardest I laughed was at an accident, when Simon accidentally slammed a champagne bottle down on Christopher’s finger, leaving me giggling behind my hands in an otherwise silent audience for about 5 minutes.

This is an impressive show, and an important comment on the nature of journalism, drifting occasionally into very black humour reminiscent of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's work. In a particularly dark moment, the journalists try to convince the kidnappers to chop off a finger of their hostage to make a good story. Some aspects of the production left some to be desired, but overall this is a smart, insightful show that quietly has something rather bleak to say: as Andy says, this is the 21st century. You can get away from any problem by closing your laptop.

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