The Crown Dual (Wilton’s Music Hall)

By Royal Command, we are in the palatial, ghostly, and distressed surroundings of the historic Wilton’s Music Hall, to spend just short of 80 minutes in the company of HM The Queen.

The Crown Dual was one of the hits of the Edinburgh Fringe, taking careful aim at the Netflix series The Crown as well as the notion of monarchy. It is silly, satirical, and just plain funny.

Brendan Murphy and Rosie Holt in The Crown Dual
Brendan Murphy and Rosie Holt in The Crown Dual

In the persons of Rosie Holt and Brendan Murphy we meet not just Liz and Phil, but also a stuttering George VI (“you should marry a naval officer or asshole … a soldier”), an ancient cigar-puffing Churchill, a horny fur-clad Princess Margaret (with Top Gun-like Peter Townsend), a large-eared young Charles (“I just can’t wait to be king” / “you’ll be waiting a bloody long time!”), and a bovver-boy Armstrong Jones.

There’s a running gag about the Duke of Edinburgh’s frustrations at having no role, a small dig at his driving, and an encounter with a huge penguin. There’s audience participation (which I was assured by one lady was genuine and not done by planted performers). There’s several digs at Netflix, inventive use of a phone, and a lot of stage smog.

Rosie Holt in The Crown Dual
Rosie Holt in The Crown Dual

The humour is of the slightly joshing kind rather than downright cruel, and Holt’s Queen retains her what-the-heck singlemindedness right to the moment she gains the coveted baubles and Crown of state.

It could perhaps have been closer to traditional knockabout farce, but the quick changes, goofy script (at one point a Merlin-like tutor appears for a montage of Queendom), and likeable performers keep this going.

Brendan Murphy and Rosie Holt in The Crown Dual
Brendan Murphy and Rosie Holt in The Crown Dual

The Crown Dual has its final performances at Wilton’s Music Hall today, 14 September.

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Cinema review: Hitchcock’s The Pleasure Garden – restored

The BFI’s ‘Genius of Hitchcock’ project launched this week with the restoration of the director’s first film from 1926, ‘The Pleasure Garden’, now with original tints and extended to a length of twenty minutes more than has previously appeared on DVD releases.

The setting for this first screening (with live accompaniment from the Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble, to a new piece composed by Daniel Patrick Cohen) was the charming but dilapidated Wilton’s Music Hall, in Whitechapel, just a short walk from Tower Hill tube station. Given the young Hitchcock’s love for the theatre (which is shown by the opening shots of this film, featuring blonde chorus girls) it was the perfect venue, and it was fitting that with the launch of this season the announcement was made that Wilton’s has gained Lottery funding – of £56,000, as it turns out.

The film itself is a potboiling melodrama with a leering villain (Miles Mander), a sweet chorus girl (Virginia Valli), a gold-digging bitch (Carmelita Geraghty), and a nice but dim chap (Hugh Fielding). There’s also a cute dog to rival ‘The Artist’ and Uggie. Although it isn’t top drawer Hitch, there is much to enjoy in this piece from the fledgling director, and from this beautiful restoration.

The remaining eight silent features are to be restored for this year’s Cultural Olympiad (The Ring, The Lodger, Blackmail, Downhill, Champagne, Easy Virtue, The Farmer’s Wife, The Manxman), and donations can still be made via the BFI website .