Dudley Goring Comprehensive School is expecting a very important visitor. One so important that one requires one’s own loo. Couple that with an apparent anti-monarchy protagonist and the scene is set for what is billed as a comedy. In fact in the playwright’s notes we are told “… the billing approaches accuracy in a way that many billings fail quite to achieve… a comedy because the premise is essentially comedic.” This should, perhaps, have been an indication of what was to come.
Charlie Condou as the socialist Head of Science, Derek Jones and Mary Roscoe as Her Majesty The Queen give sound, confident performances and engage well with each other and the audience, whilst Michael Joel Bartelle’s portrayal of a Head Teacher somewhat out of his depth with the magnitude of the occasion, doesn’t quite hit the mark and veers towards caricature rather than realism.
It’s the script that’s the issue. Whereas this could have been an interesting, timely opportunity to discuss the future of the monarchy – albeit set in the Golden Jubilee year of 2002, rather than this year’s Platinum Jubilee – there simply isn’t enough republican rigour or conflict between The Queen and the scientist to deliver any kind of meaningful rhetoric. At times Goldsmith’s writing feels like a love letter to the Royal Family and Dr Jones’ standpoint never feels truly opposite. In the end we’re left with a discourse that falls somewhere – and nowhere – in the middle; a very comfortable sit-com that, sadly, lacks the com.