Rosie Holt and Brendan Murphy star in this two-person comedy recreation of the Netflix show The Crown, playing the roles of Beth, an aspiring actress, and Stan, her manager. They both take on a variety of roles ranging from the Queen to her corgis, creating a fast-paced, hectic show aiming to squeeze roughly 20 hours of television into just over an hour of theatre.
Although the parody of the royal family is funny in its own right, the extra layer that is added by the references to the Netflix original make it stand out from other comedy about the Windsors. They recreate the title sequence onstage, complete with a ‘skip intro’ button, as well as flashbacks and 4th-wall-breaking asides where the characters give their opinions about the original show.
There is a great balance of parody and humour. The source material is mixed with modern pop culture references, such as some of the memorable lines about royalty from The Lion King and Bridget Jones style diary entries by Princess Margaret. The actors often break the 4th wall, with Beth and Stan coming through to comment on the performance or rope the audience into playing minor characters.
The acting is fantastic throughout. Holt’s accent particularly stands out, finding a balance between received pronunciation and slightly over-exaggerated posh. Murphy has the mammoth task of playing almost every character apart from the Queen, and it is amazing to see how he keeps up the chaotic energy of the costume and character changes right until the end. There is a clear difference in accent and demeanour for every character they play, including the roles of Beth and Stan. They handle the fast-paced dialogue effortlessly and show a talent for improvisation in the way they manage anything unexpected that comes from their victims in the audience.
The costumes and props match the show perfectly, in keeping with the premise of an amateur production about the royal family, but with an element of humour. Oversized false beards and moustaches and a giant penguin costume add to the absurdity of the show, as do the coronation accessories of a solar garden light and a bottle of Chambord. The focal point of the stage sets the tone for the performance, a simple plastic garden chair that has been painted gold to act as the throne.
The beginning of the show feels almost too ridiculous as the characters are so unprepared for the performance. But after the first couple of scenes the premise establishes itself well and the audience end up more and more invested and involved in the crazy, convoluted attempt of the two characters to single-handedly recreate a multimillion-pound television programme.
Crown Dual is a very enjoyable production that puts a new spin on a well-established trope. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it feels like the actors are having almost as much fun as the audience.