Play: Victoria’s Knickers
Playwright: Josh Azouz
Director: Ned Bennett
Theatre: Soho Theatre
Review by Cherise Lopes-Baker
Through original hip-hop solos, and hilariously incongruent pop culture references, Victoria’s Knickers, explores the intimate relationship between young Queen Victoria and palace intruder Edward Jones in this royally absurd rom-com.
Struggling with the strictures of an overbearing mother and a meticulously planned royal life, Victoria questions her commitment to the throne and her ability to rule for the people. Shocked as she is to find a cavalier boy Jones sitting on her throne one night, Victoria finds him a satisfying match for her quick repartee.
Instead of turning him in, she welcomes his future visits and, even as Albert courts her with naïve enthusiasm, she finds herself tempted by an intense affair with Jones and the life he introduces her to among the people.
As Victoria’s romantic tribulations play out with bad-ass bars and affectionate abandon, the political machinations of her ‘security council’ take a dark and comically bleak turn, including the best and most absurd confrontation between Black Panther (Royalist) and Spiderman (Charterist).
Filled with tangential skits, and audience asides, the director keeps us in fits of laughter, even as the inevitable sores, boils and disembowelment of history push through.
The incredibly talented National Youth Theatre REP Company brings life to the play’s hilarity. Alice Vilanculo offers a frank and daring ‘bad man queen’, in full command of her own path. Deflating her suitor’s egos one gibe at a time, Victoria rules the stage as a woman coming into her own.
Jamie Ankrah is a hopeless romantic and determined suitor, refusing to accept societal limitations. Oseloka Obi is an endearing counter suitor, Albert, earning the audience’s affection with his comically earnest attempts at courtship and his ‘shell collection’. And in wild contrast to this rom-com cast, Aidan Cheng shines in his role as maniacal palace torturer, always lurking in the background.
Absurd and current, this play is a surprise and a joy at every turn.