Review: The Queen’s Knickers (Arts Theatre)

There are few things better on a hot summer’s afternoon in London than yelling “knickers” alongside a packed, air-conditioned Arts Theatre for TaleGate Theatre’s new musical for children, The Queen’s Knickers.

It’s Platinum Jubilee year, and a young schoolgirl invites Her Majesty along to the school celebration. That would be fine and dandy, but does she have the right pair of Royal underwear for the occasion? And what if they went missing?

Butler Dom and laundress Dilys teach us how to greet the Queen, and show us some examples of pants fit for the Royal bottom. Tartan for Balmoral, jewel-encrusted for state occasions, with real holly for Christmas.

A cast of three keep the energy going across two acts totalling 75 minutes, and there is an interval to recharge your batteries. Writer-director James Worthington has included lots of audience participation and character switches as corgis, coppers and more come into play.

Profuction shot of Dilys and Dom in The Queen's Knickers

Lyricist Kate Lindsey gives us a lot of raucous rhyming and memorable phrasing, enough to keep the target audience of 5-11 year olds happy. Two 6 and 7 year olds sitting near me confirmed the show was “fun” and adults got into the spirit of the “new burtsey” and time “on the beat”.

The Queen is on stage both in person and in animation, with the trusty black handbag and regal wave. She may appear more than a bit Thatcherite than Elizabethan, but it is a nicely judged performance from Emma Clare.

The plot keeps moving with both contemporary references (The Crown, Downton, Bridgerton) and old school moments (the old Vision On theme accompanies the Royal knicker maker’s proposed designs).

Photograph of The Queen in The Queen's Knickers

Opening act two, a scene with two police officers goes on a little bit, before wrapping up the mystery of the missing briefs, and the school trip seems wrapped up with some off-stage haste.

This is an irreverent and well-crafted show from a company which clearly knows how to connect with young audiences. Based on the popular book by Nicholas Allan.

You can see The Queen’s Knickers daily at the Arts Theatre until 19 August 2002 – tickets here.

For more on TaleGate Theatre visit their website.

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