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The Crown Jewels | The Lowry

Direct from wrapping up their run at The Garrick Theatre in London’s West End, The Crown Jewels has arrived in Salford’s Lowry Theatre for the start of its UK Tour. Led by an all star cast from stage and screen, the play is a new British comedy piece which centres loosely around the true story of one of the greatest heists in history, stealing the Crown Jewels in plain sight.

The story, written by Simon Nye, is an interesting concept, but needs further development as the piece doesn’t feel like it plays to the casted character’s strengths. The plot is almost instantly lost within the first few scenes and we almost forget this is a story about a heist as we are subjected to irrelevant and jarring jokes. In what could be a genuinely hilarious piece, the majority of the scripted comedy does not land with the audience and even a few moments of silence during consecutive punchlines made for quite the awkward viewing. The bizarre and underwhelming end to act one left the audience unsure to clap even when the house lights came up.

Cast members constantly laugh on stage throughout the play after pieces of ‘comedy’ in order to evoke laughter from the audience, although the response is few and far between. Several parts of the piece seemed as though they weren’t fully realistic before hitting the stage. It really says something when the moments of improvised comedy are the standout moments and in clear contrast to the comedy written in the script.

Whilst the plot doesn’t instantaneously sound like a barrel of laughs, the cast do the most with the limited material they have. Best known as his alter ego ‘The Pub Landlord’, Al Murray leads the cast predominately portraying Charles II and Talbot Edwards. Murray knows how to entertain a crowd, breaking the third wall with the audience throughout and bringing us into his reign as king in 1671. He interacts with unsuspecting audience members, using his vast experience of stand up comedy, in one of the more positive elements of the show. The show cleverly integrates answers that the audience members give to the king into the show.

West End leading lady Carrie Hope Fletcher is criminally underused. Presumably cast not only on her merit as an amazing actress, but on her vocal range and delivery. It’s then a shame that the compositions and lyrics, by Grant Olding and Simon Nye, do very little to showcase Fletcher’s talent in an effective manner. The opening song ‘Praise You’ has a catchy enough hook and a hopeful indication of what was to come, however the other numbers Fletcher was given lacked any sort of memorability and did not serve their purpose.

Mel Giedroyc shone in her role as French Noblewoman in act two, during her scene stealing moment interacting with the front row which had one of the more favourable audience reactions. Her characterisation of this particular character was distinctive and arresting. Inbetweeners star Joe Thomas and Men Behaving Badly actor Neil Morrissey faded into the background with a lack of material reduced to nothing more than ensemble characters essentially.

Set and costume designer Michael Taylor attempts to make us believe that we are in the 17th century, but set backdrops and dressings evoke more of a pantoesque look and feel rather than genuine historical locations. Due to the staging design, lots of the action took place in cramped spacing at the front of the stage whilst we navigated between scenes. This sometimes left main characters and parts of the staging in the shadows with lighting design by Natasha Chivers.

The Crown Jewels should have been an instant audience hit. The cast alone are some of the most exceptionally talented actors there are and they do their best with what they are given. The script desperately needs reworking and would do well to include the actors in the piece during the script writing process. The majority of the story is resolved in act one which left act two feeling to no purpose. The off the cuff comedy were by far the funniest moments of this play and they would do well to lean into this narrative more. Unfortunately this play would be better left in the past.

The Crown Jewels plays at The Lowry, Salford until 23rd September before continuing on its UK tour. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | Photography by Hugo Glendinning


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