Car Crash

by | Mar 13, 2024

By Karyn Hodgkinson

In November 2019, the BBC’s Newsnight arranged an interview with presenter Emily Maitlis and Prince Andrew – third child and second son to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Recalling his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the Duke said that he had no regrets about the friendship: ‘the people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn either by him or because of him were actually very useful’. One of Epstein’s allegedly trafficked girls, Virginia Guiffre (nee Roberts), gave details accusing Prince Andrew of having sex with her three times when she was 17. Prince Andrew denied this, giving alibis and evidence against Guiffre’s claims.

This interview was believed by Maitlis and Newsnight to have been approved by the Queen, although ‘palace insiders’ disputed this. One of Prince Andrew’s official advisors resigned just prior to the interview being aired. Nevertheless, Prince Andrew was pleased with the outcome of the interview – reportedly giving Maitlis and the Newsnight team a tour of Buckingham Palace. However, the interview received universal condemnation – within and outside of the UK. In fact, it was described as a ‘car crash’, ‘nuclear explosion level bed’ and ‘the worst public relations crisis for the royal family since the death of Diana’. Experts and palace stakeholders said that the interview, its fallout and the sudden suspension of Andrew’s royal duties were unprecedented.

This is the stuff of Gregory Vines’ satirical comedy. Despite it being well worn fodder – sex scandals in high places – Vines carries it off beautifully. The various pieces of news that the ‘advisors’ deal with regarding Andrew, mount to a crescendo. As a result, both advisors are on the f loor after a night on the bottle, ‘I’m going to wake up’ declares one – ‘wake up from this nightmare!’ The situational comedy of the maid opening the curtains intending to enter the space, then thinking better of it, was delightful. We see the poignant loyalty and devotion of palace ‘insiders’ such as this maid, Madison, who declares that ‘it was always a dream to work here’. She adores Andrew and can’t countenance any wrongdoing on his part. It was surprising to have Prince Andrew enter the play so late, but the mention of the impending ‘interview’ peaks our interest and anticipation, so we are not disappointed to see the prince himself, buffoon that he is. The food motifs of the tea, various ‘bickies’ and Salmon were en pointe – the childish obsession with types of biscuit works against the corresponding lack of real interest in ordinary people.

Melanie Madrigali and Alec Gilbert feature as the two ‘advisers’ to Prince Andrew. They complement each other very well. Madrigali’s accent and persona is particularly convincing and a good foil to Gilbert’s blustery shallowness. Elyse Batson plays Madison, the maid, with devoted charm. John Voce is a fittingly bizarre Prince Andrew. MJ Wilson cuts a hapless businessman who says it like it is at the end. His voice seems to echo many of us – it is the voice of resentment of useless privilege.

The director, Cassandra Magrath, utilises the tiny performance space to the maximum effect and the piece moves at a snappy pace, taking us with it every step of the way. However, a low budget production does not have to look low budget. I wondered why the large portrait of the young Queen Elizabeth was not mounted on the wall, rather than sitting on a piece of furniture. Also, the furniture and some costume choices looked shabby given the setting.

That said, this is a witty, lively and very funny show which won’t disappoint. Treat yourself.

Image: Gregory Vines

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