views from the gods

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Royal Hunter
Camden People's Theatre
23rd August 2016

★★★★☆

Ellen Chivers

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

If you caught West End production King Charles III when it was running at Wyndham's, you'll know that today's royal princes are perfectly normal down-to-earth blokes who eat Scotch eggs and shop at Sainsbury's like wot the common people do. So why wouldn't you find the last eligible Royal bachelor looking for his lady love on Tinder, eh? Well, I'm sure Mike Bartlett knew his particular production was all anchored in fantasy-land and a mere parody rather than prophesy, but I'm less convinced that Ellen Chivers is actually joking in Royal Hunter... This hilarious one-woman show inserts Chivers into the action as a likeable Mary Sue type who really, truly did meet a certain Henry Charles Albert David one day. Honest, guv.

Opening with a workshop on what to do in the event of a media emergency triggered by Lizzie and her lot, Chivers wins us over from the get go with some knowing and self-deprecating humour, together with a bit of audience interaction. It's a bold move and whilst it does create a strange disconnect from the substance of the production, at least it means when she kicks off the tale properly she knows the audience are already fond of her. Chivers aka Royal Hunter goes onto describe her first date with Harry at a certain chain pizza restaurant, fireworks at Ally Pally and what it was like to have dinner with his dauntingly famous family. With this being a one-woman piece, Chivers has to step in for all of the Royals as well as herself and her impression of Prince Philip is absolutely glorious.

The well-read muggles amongst you may spot the countless references to Harry Potter in the show (foreshadowing comes in the form of the big stack of books and playtext that form part of the set), woven into the script seemingly for no other reason than JK Rowling's protagonist sharing the same name as Chivers' favourite prince. I suppose our generation who (as Chivers accurately points out) favoured Wills over Harry until the elder prince not only got hitched but started looking like his dad is the same generation who grew up with JK Rowling's characters. Yes, Chivers probably had a bigger crush on Harry than any of the rest of us ever did, but she's speaking to us 20- and 30-somethings. Whilst she may be a bit crazy, it's not difficult to relate to her.

The Potter jokes certainly add to the surreal feel of Royal Hunter, which also features stampeding corgis and impromptu Zumba classes in the palace. The exaggerated version of Chivers - well, probably exaggerated - is as mad as a box of frogs and we're never quite sure whether her stage self truly believes this all happened. Either way, we're drawn into her energetic storytelling and we find ourselves laughing frequently. She's a very slick, naturally funny performer with clear talent in comic timing and vocal work.

Royal Hunter is daft, harmless - dare we say it, magical - fun that will make you giggle. Although anyone with blue blood might prefer to take out a restraining order than hunt down a ticket…

Royal Hunter opened on 21st August and runs until 26th August 2016 at Camden People's Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Warren Street (Northern, Victoria)



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