Royally mediocre: The Crown Jewels at the Lowry starring comedy kings and queens

Straight from the West End starring Al Murray and Mel Giedroyc, the Crown Jewels is stealing the Lowry’s stage until 23 September – but it may be a royal waste of your Privy Purse.

The historical comedy play is based on the real story of Irishman Colonel Blood who attempted to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London in 1671.

The heist involved disguises, a fake stomachache, and an attempt to flatten the crown in order to fit it in a bag – all of which the play recreates.

King Charles II eventually pardoned the thief and offered him property in Ireland. The Crown Jewels haven’t been stolen since.

However, Simon Nye throws a few plot twists into his script to divert it from the history books – leaving even the most well-read audience members guessing.

The cast

The Crown Jewels boasts a star-studded cast including Al Murray and Mel Giedroyc.

Joe Thomas of Inbetweeners fame is also featured in the cast, alongside Neil Morrissey from Men Behaving Badly, which shouldn’t be surprising considering that Simon Nye wrote the series.

Some of the loudest laughs come from Al Murray’s improvised moments and crowd work where he is best able to showcase his stand-up comedy skills.

His portrayal of King Charles II is reminiscent of the Pub Landlord character for which he is best known.

Al Murray as Charles II (Source: The Lowry via Flickr)

Mel Giedroyc is no longer talking about soggy bottoms but playing the jovial Mrs Edwards as well as a sex-starved French aristocrat.

Similar to Al Murray, the ex-Bake-Off host does a lot of crowd work which goes down a treat worthy of a Paul Hollywood handshake.

Mel Giedroyc as French Noblewoman (Source: The Lowry via Flickr)

The creative team

Behind the scenes, the team holds just as many accolades as those onstage, although these are not particularly put to good use.

Crown Jewels is written by Simon Nye – the BAFTA-nominated writer for Men Behaving Badly which ran for six seasons.

Unfortunately, the badly planned historical heist is barely enough material to stretch over one comedy sketch – let alone a two-hour-long play. At least this includes an interval.

Neil Morissey’s character Captain Perrot stabs Al Murray’s Talbot Edwards (Source: The Lowry via Flickr)

Nye’s writing assumes a lot of prior knowledge from the audience with its use of historical jargon.

“I was keen to stick as far as possible to the language of the age, for the sake of authenticity but also to stop us slipping entirely into a Blackadder-style knowingness,” said Simon Nye “and just to give myself a hard time.

“I used to be a translator and this was a translating job” Nye added.

Clearly, the writer’s source material was difficult for him to wade through, and this is reflected in the stodgy script.

The writing also includes a lot of crude sexual humour, making it uncomfortable for the families in the audience who were expecting a Horrible Histories-esque play.

Perhaps, Murray and Giedroyc’s tendency to slip into improvisation was just an attempt to cover up the weak writing.

From left to right: Tanyi Virmani, Mel Giedroyc, Aidan McArdle and Al Murray (Source: The Lowry via Flickr)

Although some of the set pieces made by Michael Taylor are plain, it does spin, and there is a moving map of the Tower of London involving puppets which adds some novelty.

Stand-out performances

Musical theatre fan favorite Carrie Hope Fletcher, who has played both Éponine and Fantine in Les Misérables, finds herself shoe-horned into the role of Elizabeth Edwards – a whiney teenage nuisance who potters around after Giedroyc’s character.

The West End star spontaneously breaks into songs throughout the show – it seems as though they managed to hire the two-time Grammy award nominee and realised that they should probably let her sing.

Her flying vocal talent is deserving of a larger role and a properly written musical production.

“There may be an opportunity to join in with the singing, unless we’ve stopped that by the time you see the show” said Nye.

Carrie Hope Fletcher as Lady of the Bedchamber singing the opening number (Source: The Lowry via Flickr)

The stand-out performance is from Adonis Siddique who plays the King’s Footman – a servant who will do absolutely anything the monarch says.

Although he has few lines, Siddique steals scenes with his reactionary facial expressions – and quite literally steals the scene as his main function as a secondary character is to move the set.

Standout Adonis Siddique as the Footman (Source: The Lowry via Flickr)

Final thoughts

You should not buy tickets for the plot – you should buy tickets for the improvisation and the big names who have been stunt cast in the production.

The Crown Jewels at the Lowry may have a complicated underbaked storyline, but it does allow you to see celebrities as you have never seen them before.

Mel Giedroyc as a French noblewoman with a riotously sexual temperament, or Al Murray with hair.

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