Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
The Three Lions
by William Gaminara
at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford GU1 3YA
I was invited to review this play on behalf of an online magazine, "Essential Surrey" (http://www.essentialsurrey.co.uk/) As a football illiterate I was very relieved to find that I needed to know nothing beyond an awareness of the political importance of world sport, to enjoy its exuberant satire.
David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William are entrusted with ‘bringing football home’ for the 2018 World Cup. From their arrival at their Swiss hotel to the hilarious outcome of their project, absurdity escalates through political and social comment to genuine farce and back again.
Communication among these “Lions”, hampered by the British class system, breeds comedy, quite apart from the farcical situations involving Cameron’s inexperienced young female intern assistant and some embarrassments concerning trousers.
Dugald Bruce-Lockhart’s Cameron is a triumph of balletic media-trained body-language. Seated, he spreads his limbs to occupy three ordinary men’s space; standing, he extends a dynamic foot in front of him, as though caught mid-stride. Thinking, he poses with finger on brow. On his tongue are the stock leaders’ phrases, becoming steadily more desperate as the situation develops beyond his control.
Séan Browne plays a brilliant caricature of David Beckham’s public image as style icon. Gaminara has written him as gentle, dapper, slightly out of his depth on any subject other than fashion and football. But this is a Beckham who won’t be put down when he doesn’t see the logic behind William’s objection to his phrase “we’ve got two alternatives” applied to two different paths of action, and the Prince has to be content to differ on this point, among other howlingly funny altercations about semantics between the two.
Third in this dysfunctional team, Tom Davey’s Prince William is a stiff, insecure Etonian, whose stock responses are “Yah” and “Defo” and interruptions to correct his companions’ grammar (Cameron is pulled up – “Stad-i-a not stadiums” and Beckham’s insistence on “D and A” for “DNA” is a great piece of dialogue).
Jenny Wilford (Penny, the star-struck inexperienced intern) is a pretty catalyst for farce. The other characters are all male, but I won’t spoil the plot.
The strength of “The Three Lions” is in the dialogue. The comic timing of all the cast is impeccable. Satirical points on issues of class, privilege and power are no less telling for being scored with the lightest of touches. After all, as Penny asks, what is the difference between a bribe and an incentive? The answer is, says Cameron in the play, “One works and the other doesn’t!”