Review: The Royal at Liverpool's Royal Court ****
When The Royal was premiered in 2016, Liverpool’s gleaming new Royal Hospital was nearing completion.
In fact, producers at the Royal Court were wondering if the show’s run and the opening of the new multi, multi million pound Royal might even, serendipitously, coincide.
Six long years (and one pandemic) later, The Royal is embarking on its third run at the Roe Street theatre, but up the road the other ‘Royal’ is still yet to open its doors.
It’s enough to make you cry. But in the meantime, there’s a chance to laugh as ‘Theresa on tea’, mortician Mo and sweet-natured Flo do battle with bodily fluids and wrecking balls in this Carry On-meets-Towering Inferno.
Happily the original cast is back en masse (with the addition of new boy Joe Matthew-Morris who is elastically supine as ‘Mrs Llewellyn’) while director Cal McCrystal, also returning after the show’s second run in 2017, has upped the ante on both the medical mishaps and Lindzi Germain and Angela Simms’ often outrageous script.
There are additions and tweaks to the original here and there, some of which are cracking, and one or two which don’t really add anything to proceedings.
A Boris Johnson ‘partygate’ gag may get audience reaction but it feels crowbarred in. And it’s really not needed in a show which has so much going for it already.
Above: Lindzi Germain as Theresa and Danny O'Brien as Paddy. Top: Mo (Lynn Francis), Theresa and Flo (Angela Simms) 'help' Alan Stocks' patient Walter. Photos by Jason Roberts.
The shiny new Royal is about to be opened (cue hollow laughter) and the old hospital is set for demolition. But someone has forgotten about the rag-tag of staff and patients on ward 8X, and they’re blissfully unaware of the imminent danger they’re in.
Germain (as Theresa), Simms (Holby City-obsessed Flo) and Lynn Francis (sex-mad Mo) are a terrific treble act. Germain and Simms wrote the piece to put women centre stage and it’s great to see three strong female characters battling adversity – and their own personal demons - together.
McCrystal has ramped up the visual gags, with Alan Stocks’ prim scoutmaster patient Walter Bush at the heart – nay, bottom - of many of them. There’s certainly no dignity amid death and disaster as both Walter and the rather sad figure of Mrs Llewellyn can attest.
And Danny O’Brien delivers some heroic hair tossing as the pretty-but-dim love interest Paddy, gratuitously oiled up and in artlessly tattered clothing which would make John McClane look overdressed.
It’s all a lot of good, (un)clean fun and you certainly get plenty of bang for your buck – literally with explosions, raging fires and falling masonry, and also in the briskly-timed show’s healthy gag rate.