‘The Windsors: Endgame’ flies the Union Jack for British satire
Writing anything about the Royal Family can get you cancelled these days. Well, it’s time to stick my neck out on the line and say “God Save the King,” as the Prince of Wales ascends to the throne — aptly at the Prince of Wales Theatre — in The Windsors: Endgame. Perhaps like the Royal Family themselves, The Windsors: Endgame will divide opinion like marmite. Some will dislike the show’s bitter taste, but this is a masterclass in British satire. The Windsors: Endgame is a right royal pantomime and jolly good fun.
For those unaccustomed to The Windsors, it's originally a television show, parodising and caricaturing the lives of the Royal Family. After three seasons, the royals have now found themselves a West End home a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, with the royals globetrotting in efforts to save their relationships and the monarchy.
Harry Enfield reprises his mastered portrayal as Prince Charles, a role that’s clearly loved by fans of the TV show as his first walk onstage was greeted by clapping admirers. Considering his lead billing, Prince Charles’s appearances were few and far between, usually coupled with the killer villain Tracy-Ann Oberman as Camilla Parker Bowles. Even so, Enfield gives the people what they want, a rollicking impression with more wit and personality than the real deal could ever muster.
Enfield’s supported by a trio of actors reprising their television roles. Tom Durant-Pritchard gives a doughy-voiced portrayal as Prince Harry, coming into his own in the second act when dressed in full battle gear. Matthew Cottle as Prince Edward guides us through The Windsors: Endgame in a narrator fashion, blending into the background like his media wallflower status but popping up in unexpected ways; sports commentary on a four-way sex scene between Wills, Kate, Meghan, and Harry being a highlight. And while Tim Wallers delivers an assured performance as Prince Andrew, the storyline involving him doesn’t quite work — even though the sweat jokes were wrung out to dry like a sopping flannel.
If you’re after a royal feud, then look no further than Kate and Meghan, played out by Kara Tointon and Crystal Condie respectively. Their constant bickering hits all the right moments, one-upping each other through newly found empowered statuses. Markle may be stereotyped as a basic millennial, recording her Spotify podcasts and comparing the Queen to an avocado. But there’s nothing trashy about Condie’s on-the-nose impression, even passing for a professional Meghan Markle doppelgänger.
All pomp and circumstance expected from the royals is kicked out in favour of crude commentary and more sex jokes than Fifty Shades of Grey. But it’s balanced by Madeline Girling’s lavish set design, which feels like a replica of Buckingham Palace. Hilary Lewis’s accurate costumes felt as though they’d been plucked out of the Boden catalogue. Unexpected songs don’t quite match up to the designs though; songs about going on royal tours and an impromptu rap by Prince William felt like filler to tick off all the one-liners rather than adding anything new. But even with all these repetitive jokes, they still made the audience laugh as loudly as the first time they’d heard them.
The exaggerated British humour in The Windsors: Endgame won’t be for everyone. But then remember that Channel 4 — its television home — is designed to be a channel for alternative programming. The stage show captures this zingy wackiness, and Michael Fentiman's direction captures the zeitgeist of a nation locked down for nearly 18 months who just want to laugh at something stupid. It’s probably a show for Prince Phillip’s humour, but maybe not the Queen’s. Rule Britannia, and rule on the Windsors.
Photo credit: Ciarán Owens (Wills), Kara Tointon (Kate), Crystal Condie (Meghan), Tom Durant-Pritchard (Harry) (Photo by Marc Brenner)