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The Throne by John Goldsmith at Charing Cross Theatre

It is 2002 – another Royal Jubilee year, and HRH (Mary Roscoe) is due to open a new Science wing in a ‘sink’ comprehensive where Dr Derek Jones (Charlie Condou), a staunch republican, is Head of Science. Finding the door unlocked, he cannot resist ‘pee’ping into the specially installed royal loo, at the same time as HRH decides to use the facilities. Suddenly they find that they are trapped with a bomb hidden under the floor…

The Throne: Charlie Condou and Mary Roscoe Photo Tristram Kenton.
The Throne: Charlie Condou and Mary Roscoe Photo Tristram Kenton.

This is John Goldsmith’s first play, and clearly a work in progress. Although he has written several novels, and scripts for TV series such as The New Avengers, The Professionals and his ‘critically acclaimed American mini-series Victoria and Albert, he decided to pen a full-length two-handed comedy, probably the most difficult type of play he could undertake!

Much of the play is devoted to a discussion of the merits of a republic versus a monarchy, and unfortunately, not only does Goldsmith forget that this play is supposed to be a comedy, he also fails to come up with anything new to say.

The direction does not help, the piece lacks energy and moves forward at a snail’s pace with many ‘pauses’ to little effect. What few amusing moments there are, are wasted, such as when Jones nearly succeeds in looking inside HRH’s handbag.

Charlie Condou tries very hard to get some pace into the play and is the most successful of the cast of four listed in the programme, but it is obvious that he really is having to work as an actor and therefore we quickly don’t believe him in his role.

Mary Roscoe is hampered by a wig that is too large (design – Gregor Donnelly) and hampers her efforts to BE the monarch. In fact, she falls between two stools: neither succeeding in creating a believable role, nor in creating a caricature, as an impressionist would do. It is also most unlikely that she would be allowed to visit the facilities in a strange place without a lady-in-waiting being present.

Two minor roles are listed in the programme, a ‘mysterious figure’ (Steven Dean Moore) – probably the most successful portrayal of the evening – and the Head Teacher, played by Michael Joel Bartelle with no authority whatsoever.

The play would have benefitted from much sharper dialogue, more pace and many more amusing lines, as well as being pruned by about 40 minutes and run without an interval. Next time, John Goldsmith might be more ‘at home’ with a play that did not set out to be amusing: comedies are so difficult to write, act and direct!

2 gold stars

Review by John Groves

2002: the year of the Golden Jubilee, and everyone at Dudley Goring Comprehensive School is in a state of eager anticipation about the arrival of a very important visitor. Her Majesty the Queen is due to open the new Science block.

Everyone, that is, apart from Derek Jones, the school’s Head of Science, an unreconstructed socialist and staunch republican. In a moment of madness, Derek decides to use the temporary ‘facilities’ – a Portaloo which has been specially installed for the Queen’s own personal use. His timing is, as ever, terrible and he is caught in the act by the Queen herself.

Embarrassment quickly turns to confusion and then fear as they realise they’ve been locked in the Portaloo by terrorists who have planted a bomb underneath, and any attempt to escape will set it off. With no way to contact the outside world, Derek and Her Majesty are forced to rely on each other as they wait anxiously to discover their fate. But will they find some common ground before it’s too late?

A witty and irreverent new comedy from John Goldsmith, starring Charlie Condou (Coronation Street, Charlotte Gray, Nathan Barley) and Mary Roscoe (Ted Lasso, Unrelated).

Cast: Charlie Condou, Mary Roscoe, Michael Joel Bartelle

Creatives: Director – Anthony Biggs, Set & Costume Designer – Gregor Donnelly, Lighting Designer – Chuma Emembolu, Sound Designer – Chris Drohan, Casting Director – Jane Deitch, Assistant Director – Steven Moore

THE THRONE – a new play by John Goldsmith
Presented by Throne Production Ltd
Directed by Anthony Biggs

29 June – 30 July 2022

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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