It’s the year 1988 – Thatcher, the IRA, booming house prices, superstardom, the breaking down of unions, the paparazzi, low unemployment, hedonism, anti-Apartheid concerts, cocaine, AIDS, Edwina Currie’s eggs … In a flat in London, “2 queens and a queen to be” Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett and Princess Diana (D) lament the cost of big-time celebrity, the pain of being recognised by every citizen in the country. As each grapples with her own public identity, the friendship of the three seems all they can count on. The night progresses and the walls pen them in: D begs the boys to take her out somewhere fun, somewhere no-one will care, somewhere she can be invisible by not being invisible.
So, where else do you go? The Vauxhall Tavern, that most famous of gay bars on the south of the river where you can be anyone you like and no-one will give a damn. Lady Di is incognito, Kenny is off his face and Freddy is more aware than any of the others that he is not long for this crazy world. Royal Vauxhall is a touching but mostly very funny show about friendship, loss and living. Filled with brilliant innuendo and jokes (“Charles has only made love to me once” “But, D, you have 2 children”), game shows with a little audience participation (Wankety-Wank), a David Bowie therapist puppet and more camp than Charles Haughtrey at a prom dance, this is a fun-packed hour and 20 minutes.
And, oh, it’s a musical too. You’ll recognise some of the tunes but not the words. Lots of Queen but not quite Queen. And so many cultural references – as someone who spent her entire teens in the 1980s, I got them all. A much younger person might not.
Royal Vauxhall is glorious nostalgia with an hilarious bent (couldn’t resist). Definitely recommended!
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