The Three Lions – Review

The Three Lions CREDIT Geraint Lewis
The Three Lions. Images Geraint Lewis.

My knowledge of football is non-existent. The only time that I have ever taken any notice of “the beautiful game” and its multi-millionaire stars was when a certain David Beckham went into the business of selling underpants.

So what was I doing, I hear you wonder, at the opening of the football caper, The Three Lions (nothing to do with the film of the same name) at St James Theatre, Victoria, on Thursday?

This comedy isn’t about the antics of wannabe Afghan insurgents but William Gaminara’s hilarious 2013 Ed Fringe hit about England’s flawed bid, by a dream team of PM David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William, to win the rights for the UK to host the 2018 World Cup.

Co-incidentally Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, who has fought long and hard for the bidding process to be made transparent, was in the audience.

Sadly Goldenballs and the other two icons of the modern world were absent but they were substituted by an excellent trio who had the first night audience howling with laughter.

While aware of Gaminara’s prowess as an actor (Silent Witness has never been the same since he left), my apologies for not knowing that he was such a talented playwright. He’s scored a real winner with this gem.

The Three Lions is one of the funniest plays I’ve seen in ages. Alas, it didn’t feature Beckham lookalike Séan Browne in white Y-fronts (a huge error) but both the prince and PM stripped down to their boxers – and it wasn’t pretty.

The scene is a badly decorated Swiss hotel room where the grey, white, black and red abstract wallpaper has been copied off a box of (Mansize) Kleenex.

THE THREE LIONS

Our three lions are meeting to discuss strategies before they hold talks with Fifa executives in a bid to sway the judges deciding who should get the prestigious hosting rights.

We apparently spent £20m on the bid, which included, according to this biting satire, a number of “incentives” – not bribes – to help win us the vote.

“Oh my! You could have spent that on hospitals or schools,” declares Penny, Cameron’s wide-eyed, naive blonde PA.

Cameron had been the first to arrive at the room and, seeing a football on the table, embarrasses himself with a quick kickabout – only for a sharply suited and booted Beckham to walk in.

The PM then finds he’s in the wrong room, a running gag throughout the play, and a totally serious Beckham offers to share while giving out fashion tips and fielding calls from the wife.

William arrives. He talks Eton posh with a lot of “oh yah” and “deffo” peppering his largely vacuous conversations.

These are wonderful caricatures of three public figures and they’re beautifully played.

Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as Cameron, is all sound-bite statements and hand gestures so expansive that he frequently looks like he’s holding the imaginary handlebars of a Raleigh Chopper.

He does his best to corral his troops but he’s on a hiding to nothing. Browne’s Beckham (Brylcreem hair and designer beard phase) is a real treat.

He’s got that endearing Beckham pose where his right eyebrow frequently rises in emphasis while his mouth runs off with the most ridiculous tosh.

He protests that everyone thinks he’s stupid but there’s nothing malicious in this portrayal. If anything, it makes you love the fashion plate even more.

Tom Davey looks too old for Prince William but he’s a good enough representation of the young royal who has inherited his father’s love of practical jokes, tie twiddling and hand-wringing.

Antonia Kinlay, as Penny, the trainee PA out to impress, is very gushing and gullible while Ravi Aujla’s likable waiter, Vikram, is a stereotype – until we discover his secret.

There’s a nod to the News International phone tapping scandal, a rant at Fifa dirty tricks, and an awful lot to make you laugh out loud as three unlikely heroes fight our corner.

We may have lost the 2018 World Cup to Russia but patriotic The Three Lions wins on penalties.

The Three Lions runs at St James Theatre until May 2.

★★★★★stars.

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