The Three Lions

St James Theatre, London

© Geraint Lewis

© Geraint Lewis

Bliss it was and very heaven to be in Switzerland in 2010 to bid for the right to hold the Football World Cup in 2018. Or was it?!

William Gaminara’s new comedy takes us to the heart of the process. And it’s an absolute corker. Throw together England’s secret weapons in pursuit of hosting the Fifa World Cup – the heir to the throne, the Prime Minister and the number one international poster boy for Footie, none other than Mr Beckham himself – stir in a little light satire and situation and character comedy – the three of them banged up mistakenly together in a hotel room for 48 hours – and what do you get? A perfectly cooked soufflé, buoyant, fluffy, crisp on top with a sure and tangy after-taste.

Bliss indeed.

I can’t remember when I laughed so contentedly. Gaminara – once head pathology honcho in Silent Witness; he’s not just a pretty face – hits the spot time after time with this perfectly pitched lampoon of our greatest and glossiest abroad, ripe enough in its comedy to avoid libel but close enough in detail and observation to be instantly recognisable.

There’s our Dave, beefy, bombastic and brimming with `I’m the PM’ surfing above the incoming tide of hotel incompetence – he should have had his own double bedroom but instead has ended up in Becks’ gaff – trying to keep `the team’ focussed and on track. Beautifully played by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, all puffed out chest and waving arms, Séan Browne’s Becks joins him as a picture of perfectly proportioned caricature, all sartorial grace but as if slightly dozey with half closed eyes. Tom Davey’s Prince William, vacantly pleasant, a catalogue of `yahs’ and `defos’ emanating from his elongated frame completes our three lion-hearted ambassadors on a mission to win votes, score influence and bring footie `back home’.

Add to this Antonia Kinlay’s delightful if error prone PM dogsbody and Ravi Aujla’s sycophantic Indian waiter and you have two hours of joyful send-up. Gaminara’s main ploy is to underline the English camp’s naivety with a steady stream of absurdly funny, pacey one-liners, nicely directed to maximum effect by director Philip Wilson who surrounds the production with infectious jingoistic pop football favourites. Just, too, when you think the tempo might be beginning to sag, a spot of old fashioned farce in the shape of trouser-dropping is introduced. And it works!

Most enjoyably of all, he has a serious point to make, a sting in the tail with a nod to all the recent shenanigans with the Press and politicians and one particular press mogul. Suffice it to say, you could tell Gaminara had struck home in the silence that descended on an audience clearly caught off-guard, all defences down, by the easy laughter.

Brilliant. That’s the way to do it.

First published in Londongrip, April 2015