H.R.Haitch at Union Theatre
H.R.Haitch at the Union Theatre
H.R.Haitch is a musical comedy which although was a showcased in 2015, the current production at the Union is the first fully staged production of it. The current production is blessed with impeccable timing with the royal nuptials of Harry and Meghan happening this weekend making the story even more relevant.
H.R.Haitch tells of Prince Albert, a prince who has been in hiding for 20 years and is about to be revealed to the country. Prince Albert however has met a ‘commoner,’ a mixed race, pint pulling, girl named Chelsea. She also happens to be anti-monarchy. When Prince Albert’s (or Bertie’s as he is known to Chelsea) true identity is revealed the choice is given to Chelsea, leave her old life behind in order to be accepted by ‘the firm’ and remain with Bertie or stay true to her roots and not disappoint her family.
The concept by Maz Evans is an interesting one and the show is full of witty one liners and funny concepts. There are numerous parallels drawn through-out the show between the fictional political situation and things such as Brexit and David Cameron’s ‘pig-gate’ which makes many of the gags that bit more humorous due to how close to home they actually are.
Whilst the concept of H.R.Haitch is interesting and overall it is a funny piece, the music lets the show down. The songs rarely furthered the plot on or gave you any real additional insight into the characters. Instead the pace dragged whenever a musical number commenced which left me thinking that H.R.Haitch would have been stronger as a play. This also would have helped cut down the running time of 2.5 hours to something more palatable for a comedic show.
The set-up was well imagined with a bar making up most of the set however there was a playing space above the bar and ample room in front for scenes set in the Palace. The bar itself was well used when required as added something extra to a typical black box feel.
Tori Allen-Martin played Chelsea and I enjoyed her performance immensely. Whilst the show is full of witty one liners she is the one that gave the show it’s heart. Whilst the character is a stereotype, constantly taking ‘selfies’, talking with an accent and wearing thick makeup she managed to get the audience to see beneath this façade. The Union Theatre is an intimate venue but Tori was happy to give those in close proximity to her a knowing wink or a confident glance, drawing them into Chelsea’s world.
Christian James was Bertie/Prince Arthur and had a great loveable posh boy charm about him, bouncing nicely off Tori when they were together on stage. Christian does have a harder time to win the audience over as his character does little development throughout the show and fails to really consider the implications his revelation could have on Chelsea, a perspective that is possibly under explored.
Christopher Lyne played both Chelsea’s father Brian and Prince Richard, the next in line to the throne. It was in the role of Richard that I particularly enjoyed Christopher’s performance. This role had clearly been written and played with a certain heir to the throne in mind and he constantly made me laugh with this portrayal. The rest of the cast all did their roles justice however like the role of Bertie there was very little development for any of them. I also found that the royal family were all portrayed as very one dimensional with no redeeming features where as a lot more time was spent trying to build up empathy for Chelsea’s family, an imbalance that felt a little obvious at times.
Overall H.R.Haitch was an enjoyable night but could benefit from a large amount of trimming, some further consideration about character development and either a rewrite of the music or dropping the musical element altogether.