REVIEW: Happily Ever Poofter, Canal Cafe Theatre ✭✭✭

Julian Eaves reviews Happily Ever Poofter: The Untold Story Of a Gay Fairytale Prince written and performed by Rich Watkins at the Canal Cafe Theatre.

Happily Ever Poofter review Canal Cafe Theatre
Photo: Mufseen Miah

Happily Ever Poofter: The Untold Story of a Gay Fairytale Prince
Canal Cafe Theatre
13th July 2019
3 Stars
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Here’s a charming little new thing: a one-man show parodying Disney…. princes.  Yes, you heard me right; and it does help if you are familiar with at least a few of the famous studio’s creations, although not essential.  Performer-writer Rich Watkins (tall, dark and handsome…. AND in tights!) has fun with the subject, for which he clearly has as much fondness as mockery.

His Prince Charming is stuck in Fairyland and having a tough time hiding his sexuality from his Creator; cue an older adviser who steps in to redirect his steps towards The Real World, specifically London, where all the delights – and dangers – of Gay Town can be experienced, from clubbing and Pride festivities to casual sex and drug overdoses.  Reduced to the ranks of everyman in his London quest, our Prince sees everything from a much more matter of fact point-of-view.  In an hour-long whirlwind, Watkins whizzes us through his story, making much use of panto-esque audience banter, songs, puppets, quick costume-changes and a grand, symphonic sound-track by Lex Kosanke.

Originally launched on the stage of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, the script is at its best when aping the ribald crudeness of drag queens’ patter. Once it gets going, it is really very well written indeed, with lots of clever jokes and also some unexpectedly serious twists and turns.  It’s currently being developed, so maybe more of that will find its way in there.  Elsewhere, it does have a slight tendency toward lofty high-mindedness, wearing its politically correct heart very much upon its ruched sleeve.  Well, a little of that sort of thing goes a long way, perhaps a lot further than Watkins currently realises.  He is strongest when exploring his other vividly drawn characters, and perhaps these will be expanded before the show reaches the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s a very versatile actor, and this is the perfect showcase for his many talents.

Andrew Springate has provided some glitzy-tacky scenery and Katharine Drury is functioning as ‘Creative Consultant’.  The show has just enjoyed a brief and well-received visit to Above The Stag, and now director (and publicist and co-lighting designer) Denholm Spurr has joined in to be a bit of a dramaturg and put more shadow and darkness into this frothy confection.  Simone Murphy provides some nifty choreography, too – the audience does get to do some moves, too, which is a great high-light of the piece (more please?).  For a first script, it’s in a very promising state and bodes well for the future writing career of this young talent.

There are two further performances at this address (17/18th July), before it heads north to Scotland and the Free Fringe: 03-09 August at 21.40 at The Outhouse.

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