Stealing Buckingham Palace

Review from Fringe Festival Praha 2011

Helen Ford

Written by Helen Ford Published on 30.05.2011 10:25:07 (updated on 30.05.2011) Reading time: 3 minutes

On a cold and rainy Friday evening I trotted along to my first Prague Fringe 2011 event – Stealing Buckingham Palace.  Even the least patriotic British expats amongst you cannot have failed to notice how international press has been ever so slightly dominated by all things Royal lately. The British Royal Family is revived and more popular than ever so this performance by Grayling Productions definitely ticks the ‘topical and well-timed´ box.

Arriving at Kavarna 3+1 fresh from the deluge outside and complete with bag, coat and massive umbrella, I was first struck by how small Kavarna 3+1 is.  My wet weather attire seemed stupidly large in comparison to the theatre space, which seats 20 at a push.  Wyndham Grayling waited to start his one man show with gentlemanly patience. Only once his audience had dried off, found their seats and settled down did the energetic Grayling jump up and launch into his one-man performance.  

Described as a ‘naughty romp‘ offering a ‘behind-the-curtains´ peek at all things royal, this comedic play is very fast paced and energetic. Grayling performs all the roles himself, flipping between characters with nothing more than a change of hat or particular facial expression.   

At the same time, and notwithstanding the pace of this performance, the central character (Wyndham) is developed so the audience sees him warts and all: an American´s fascination with monarchy, awe at the grandeur of the palace, delight at lunching there, wonder at Prince Philip´s stature and ‘surprising amount of sex appeal´ (I´m sure we´ve all felt that at one time or other.) turning ultimately to the societal loneliness of a ‘crass´ American who remains firmly outside the British boarding-school set.   Able to identify but not contribute to the ‘vague tacit nuances´ perfected by other royal guests who have each ‘spent years turning a low class accent into a posh one´, Wyndham inadvertently mentions the taboo subject of money. How crass.  He immediately feels that an American at Buckingham Palace is as welcome as ‘a skunk at a garden party´ and sneaks off to the bathroom.
It is the bathroom scene that is the most entertaining.  Wyndham  starts with innocent commentary on the very well-crafted drain holes in the beautiful porcelain sink, to the quality of the soap and the exquisite nature of the monogrammed hand towels.  This degenerates into what I am sure a number of royal guests have either done, or been tempted to do, which is a powerful desire to steal a ‘trophy´.  

Pocketing a towel leads Wyndham quickly through a very well dramatized sequence of emotions:  Euphoria at having something to show his mother (“What a pity you won´t actually meet the Queen, dear.  But the Prince! That is lovely”), nervousness at being caught, guilt and embarrassment at his own desperate behaviour and ultimately cowardice leading to the reluctant returning of the towel.   This scene is Wyndham´s ‘Hamlet´ moment and is beautifully portrayed.

This performance really is a hoot.  It would be lovely if the weather improves for the rest of the Fringe but even if it doesn´t, with acts like this we can make our own sunshine.

Stealing Buckingham Palace runs May 27-29 and May 31-June 3 at 7:45 at Kavarna 3+1 (Plaská 10, Praha 5 – Malá Strana). For the full Fringe programme and further details go to the Fringe website. Tickets for each performance cost 150 CZK. For the keen beans amongst you, a value pack of five vouchers for 600 CZK might be just the ‘ticket´. Students presenting a valid student ID card are able to get cheap, last minute tickets for 50 CZK, from 30 minutes before start of the show. Advance tickets are available from Ticketstream.

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