‘United Queendom’ review
Time Out says
This gorgeous-looking promenade romp through Kensington Palace tells you frustratingly little about its subject, Queen Caroline
Of course grungy immersive theatre types Les Enfants Terribles weren’t going to turn down a chance to do a show at Kensington Palace. And of course the show isn’t very good.
These shove-a-bunch-of-actors-in-a-stately-home-type affairs rarely are: you can only do so much with the setting when it’s still in use as a tourist attraction during the day. And there’s a limit to what you can get away with when you’re a guest in somebody’s house. ‘United Queendom’ is a location-relevant historical show, and though it is mildly rude about current resident Prince William’s distant ancestor George II, it balances that out with its glowing tribute to his wife Queen Caroline. It makes her out to be an intelligent, enlightened and well-liked woman – you can tell this by the fact she doesn’t have a German accent and seems decades younger than her dopey husband, despite them both being Germans and born in the same year.
The main problem is it has virtually no plot: the show lasts for a little over an hour and mostly consists of us being trundled around to have encounters with unruly courtiers, all of whom are dressed like members of Adam and the Ants. There is a lot of talk of how lively and enlightened the court was – at one point, mind-bogglingly, via the medium of rap (cheers, ‘Hamilton’). But Miranda Heath’s Queen Caroline is more talked-about than present, and her entire storyline is limited to a glancing look at her friendship with the king’s mistress Henrietta Howard (Yesmin Keita).
It looks great, especially Susan Kulkarni’s lurid costumes and Victoria Stride’s makeup and wigs, all great garish sploshes of colour. And the cast give impressively dedicated performances. A West Country-accented rap from the Countess of Hertford is a terrible idea on many levels, but newcomer Lucy Reynolds attacks it with a real gusto and enthusiasm that, at the very least, doesn’t make us feel more awkward.
‘United Queendom’ would be perfectly pleasant as a half-hour, £10 bolt-on to a trip round Kensington Palace. It is fine as ‘an entertainment’. But with prices starting north of £30, there’s just not enough drama there. One for costume junkies only.