Graeme Of Thrones
Charing Cross Theatre
6th October 2017
Parodies and spoofs are great fun, but they fall into two very distinct categories: the ones that are based on stories you already know, and those that manage to make a case for themselves even if you don’t have any prior familiarity with the source inspiration. This show very definitely does not fall into the second category. Without a good knowledge of the interminable TV series, ‘Game of Thrones’, you will not the faintest idea who the characters are meant to be, what they are doing, where this is all happening, when, or – above all – why any of this should matter. And that is the tragic position in which I found myself when last night I crawled into the Charing Cross Theatre to catch the 10pm – yes, you read that aright – outing of this 90-minute, exhausting trawl through the incomprehensible antics of a bunch of utterly impenetrable figures.
Now, there were – I could easily observe – a good number of patrons around me in the auditorium who clearly did ‘get’ the endless references to the telly, and chuckled from time to time at the cod caricaturing of their fictional originals. If you happen to among their number, I do not begrudge you for a moment your superior knowledge. Go and chuckle with them. But if you don’t already know quite a bit about the programme – 90 minutes is a not inconsiderable slice of your night, after all – then I would think long and hard about whether you should risk it. The writers of this entertainment have not discovered a way to make ‘accessible’ to the uninitiated the trials and tribulations of the immense roster of personages brought onto and off the platform of the Charing Cross Theatre.
Regular readers of my reviews (are there any?) may be aware of my habit, nay – penchant, for name-checking as many of the participants in each show I go and see, and for tagging their efforts, good, bad or indifferent, with usually fairly well spelled renditions of their monikers. Well, in this case that is just not going to happen, mainly because I, and the rest of the audience, were not provided with any written information about whose work we were seeing. That seemed strange. I mean, how many people bring a show to the West End and then do their best to disguise the identity of the participants and those responsible for it? Very few. And what kind of people might do that? What might motivate such secrecy? One can but wonder, and one does wonder.
All I know is that I saw three people on the boards. There was a tall, dark man with a moustache and a classically trained voice. He could well be in ‘Showstopper’ playing the ‘director’, and I suspect I might have seen him in just such a role not a million miles away from the CXT. Then there was a woman, elfin and poised, who did probably the best job of the night in trying to make her stuff land with non-plussed ignoramuses like me. She was helped in this a great deal for her ability to ‘connect’ with the audience, not least through the single and fairly successful involvement of audience participation, which she executed with aplomb, creating something of a ‘shared experience’ for those who, like me, felt hideously shut out of the vast majority of what was being said or done on stage. And then there was their stooge, another guy, whom – again – I may or may not have seen in something else, and who acquitted himself as the ‘underdog’ pretty amiably enough. If only I could have grasped what it was all supposed to be about. This is a show, if ever there was one, that desperately cries out for a ‘narrator’ to bridge the gap between the cavorting of the action and the blithering idiots who come to the theatre – imagine this – not having done their homework!
As for who the writer/s, director/s, producer/s, designer/s, etc. of this effort might be, I haven’t the remotest idea. That seems a shame, because some nice props come through the slashed back wall of a taught white curtain, including some attractive puppets; I wish the audience knew who we had to thank for those. There is – a lot – of extremely loud music, which may or may not emanate from the TV soundtrack. On that point, there are a number of pointed references in the script to lawyers and copyright and litigation, and it is just conceivable that the total absence of any summonable ‘names’ anywhere in connection with this spectacle may have something to do with concerns about potential civil proceedings. So, if you’re an enterprising lawyer, seeking to make a name for yourself, or with clients who – you feel – deserve better treatment for their already excessively well-paid efforts for HBO (whence hails the series, and I mean in relation to what people working in the theatre earn!), then this show might be worth an investigative visit.
Otherwise, it’s strictly for addicts.