Elizabeth I: Virgin On The Ridiculous- Tobacco Factory Theatre

.Published on Public Reviews 2nd March

ElizabethI_TobaccoFactory_creditGrahamBurke

There’s a feeling of a returning band coming back to play a hometown gig about Bristol company Living Spit’s Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous. But like a band who insist on playing that difficult album in full alongside the hits, it’s a show that the dedicated lap up without necessarily fully converting the uninitiated

It’s like the BBC’s Horrible Histories in style, just with crass language and more sex jokes, as it sifts through the history of Queen Elizabeth in just over two hours. Crammed into primary school history lessons, the facts swiftly to be forgotten by most of us, it is a fascinating trawl through the ‘Virgin Queen’s’ life, from her foiled attempts at marriage over the years, her feud with her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, and her lifetime of friendship and yearning love for Robert Dudley. History is fascinating and like the TV show it resembles, doesn’t stint on the education alongside the laughs.

It delivers on this front by being consistently silly. You can’t help but laugh at a rapping Walter Raleigh, some borderline offensive foreign accents and definitely crossed-the-line wigs. It’s influenced by British comedy through the years, a little bit Python, a sprinkling of Green Wing, a dash of The League of Gentlemen. If you find the sight of a man in a dress giggle-inducing, this is the show for you. The songs are the watermarks; witty, well sung, surprisingly tight harmonies. They cover a gamut of styles from Genesis, Tenacious D and Andrew Lloyd Webber circa The Woman in White and the cd plugged midway through would get a healthy playing in the Hallett household.

Both performers are open and engaging and do that difficult thing of playing versions of themselves very well alongside their other characters; Stu Mcloughlin, tall and gangly and thoroughly ridiculous clad in dress and heavy Doc Martens as the Queen, Howard Coggins, small and stout, Falstaffian and portraying all other roles in a powerhouse turn. Yet what would be a tight 75-90 minutes straight through feels flabby at its current length, with some indulgence working in. They have a good enough hit rate that when one sketch fails it won’t be long until the next, but director Craig Edwards should have edited deeper, cut out the flab and given us the meat. With a little more self-discipline this could be a show that doesn’t just spring but truly flies

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