Review By Alex Gonzalez
What do you do when you’re a versatile actor, but the world just wants to see you play the same role? Or how do you cope when you feel trapped in the life that’s been thrust upon you? For both comedian Gerry Connolly and Queen Elizabeth II alike, you put on your crown with pride and give the people what they want!
The Rise and Disguise of Elizabeth R at The Hayes Theatre is a hilarious, relevant and surprisingly thought-provoking spectacle that delights audience members both young and young at heart. The one-act play features a stellar three-person cast, with Gerry Connolly at the very heart of it all, who steal hearts in all of their iterations. As Queen Elizabeth II, Gerry Connolly never disappoints. At a time of Brexit and #Megxit, the people truly want to know what’s going on inside Her Royal Highness’ head, and Connolly thoroughly indulges this desire with delightful family anecdotes, shocking Christmas messages, and moving speeches. As well as delving into the relationships the Queen has with her family (and those she no longer considers to be that), the show also explores Connolly’s relationship with the Queen and the ways in which they co-exist, which moved me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated I would feel going into a satirical comedic performance. The Queen, however, is just one of many hats that Connolly dons, also portraying former Australian Prime Ministers, including Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke, and John Howard. Connolly’s performance immediately draws audiences in and takes them on a journey of self-reflection, success and the burdens of being ridiculously funny.
As for the show itself, the writing is deliciously witty, with punchy one-liners that had the audience roaring. The topical nature of a lot of the humour allowed the piece to be particularly relevant, and I very much enjoyed the fact that the Queen’s tour to Australia would be via Hawaii, and then Christmas Island. One can’t, however, acknowledge the great writing without also highlighting the stunning performances of Laura Murphy and Rob Mallett who took on a smorgasbord of different characters, distinguishing each with skill, flair and sheer talent. Vocal powerhouse, Laura Murphy, amazed audiences with the variety in her range (both vocal and acting) transforming from a coked-up agent, to Queen Elizabeth I, to a celebrity obsessed koala, and more. Audiences also fell in love with every character that Rob Mallett brought to life, delighting all with his joie de vivre and comedic timing. The pair worked very well together, and beautifully crafted the world which Connelly navigates the audience through.
A review of this show would not be complete without giving kudos to set and costume designer, Jeremy Allen. The beautiful, layered arch set features uniquely British fabrics and patterns, and created depth that made you feel like you were in a mini, overtly British version of Radio City Music Hall. Though the simple, cardboard cut-out set pieces and animals gave a low budget feel, they were incredibly effective and served their purposes. The wide variety of costumes were all consistently appropriate and some were rather spectacular, namely the gowns of both Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth II. I also greatly appreciated the seamless sound cues in the show, which were often incredibly specific, that really added to the plot. My personal favourite of these, and potentially a favourite moment of the show as a whole, was the request for Siri to play “upbeat bullying backing tracks.”
Many actors have to grapple with cast-types and feeling stuck with one character, but few are as fortunate as Gerry Connolly to have the wit, talent, and showmanship to carry such a timeless character with such grace. The Rise And Disguise of Elizabeth R has something in it for everyone, and is particularly enjoyable in today’s political climate and Royal turmoil. It is beautifully directed, crafted, performed and is easily a show I would see again myself, and I cordially invite (read: urge) you to see this hilarious show.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.