Hilarious, dark and cheeky – Victoria’s Knickers is a wonderful example of when history meets contemporary comedy.
Josh Azouz’s take on the infamous tale of the man who broke into Buckingham Palace and his affair with the Queen was hysterical, with moments of both intense pain as well as joyous laughter.
When the show opened with modern contemporary sounding music, a queen rapping about her duties and a boy singing of his future, I knew that Victoria’s Knickers was going to be a special kind of show. History has always made a strong basis for theatre, but when combined with current affairs, pop culture references and street slang, it makes for a bizarre combination, which fortunately in this case, massively works to the show’s advantage.
The show makes no secret of its historical inaccuracies, from having Albert woo Victoria by singing songs and fighting a duel in a Black Panther mask, to having an angry Chartist pop all the balloons in Buckingham Palace. However this openness with the audience, created a relaxed and informal environment from a viewing perspective. I felt that I was able to use the piece as escapism and just enjoy the spectacle taking place in front of me.
One element I throughly enjoyed were the original songs (composed by Chris Cookson with lyrics by Josh Azouz, Chris Cookson and members of the National Youth Theatre). They gave the show a really fresh sound and lifted the piece a huge amount when scenes were beginning to feel a little stagnant. They were also incredibly witty and well used in terms of exposition and character analysis. I particularly liked when Victoria was preparing for her coronation and the chartist subjects all began singing over her about getting the vote. It was really powerful and was so effective to watch.
The set for the show, was incredibly minimal. However I didn’t seem to have much trouble suspending my disbelief over imagining Buckingham Palace in the place of posterboards and pillars. If anything, it added to the character and charm of the piece, allowing the audience to use their imaginations and feel fully drawn into the show.
Alice Vilanculo (Victoria) and Jamie Ankrah (Ed) led the show superbly. They had brilliant chemistry and banter which really sold the audience on the progression of their relationship. However they each individually also had an excellent balance of comedy and dramatic dynamics within their performances. Both characters when on quite an extreme journey throughout the course of the show, and both actors communicated these moments wonderfully and with such focus and heartfelt emotion. I was completely invested in their performances and believed every word.
I have to say that Aidan Cheng stood out throughout the performance and captured my attention whenever he was onstage. His sheer crazy take on the spy, “Sasha” was as terrifying as it was brilliant, fully committing both physically and vocally to the role. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him and found myself in fits of giggles whenever he appeared. He completely stole the show and made the performance, in my opinion.
Overall Victoria’s Knickers is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a long time. I throughly enjoyed it and know that it will develop a brilliant reputation whilst it’s at the Soho Theatre.