The Royal Duchess Superstore at the Half MoonCultureTheatre
The Royal Duchess Superstore is John O’Neill’s story of a man leaving prison and discovering the world has moved on without him. The production is emotive and brilliantly acted, but it falls down when it tries to say too much in too little time.
The first scene of the play is charged with a calm energy as we are introduced to Terry, played by Mark Wingett. He’s splattered with blood and it’s clear that something momentous has just happened to him, already he rants about trips to Ikea and the unrecognisable state of East end. It’s the same old racist spiel we’ve heard many times, but it’s not the word “cunt” or “paki” that makes his speech so challenging, instead it’s Terry’s eerie charisma as he expels his opinions.
Unfortunately, the rest of the production never quite matches up to the intensity of this first scene. We’re taken back in time to revisit the story of Terry’s recent release from prison. However, the story is somewhat hazy; we’re never informed of why Terry went to prison, what he was involved in before and where his new house and money is coming from. These gaps mean it’s difficult to fully connect to the character or understand the motives behind Terry’s final outburst.
Luckily though, we meet some great characters along the way. Mark Wingett swings from a seething gangster figure to a repentant ex-lover without missing a beat. Jude Monk McGowan’s performance as Freddie, a goodhearted but foolish young wide boy, is so believable it’s amusing and his energy is a great counterpart to the experienced and world-weary character of Terry.
Susannah Henry deserves a mention for her set design which manages to capture the sense of nostalgia whilst still being simple and versatile. This is helped by Andrew Williams’s sound which blends a retro song with modern beats to reflect the changing nature of the past.
The cast and technical team put in a professional performance and it is a thoroughly enjoyable show, but due to the vague and undeveloped plot line, the show never delves deeper into the issues raised at the start.
The Royal Duchess Superstore is on at the Half Moon Theatre from 9th September until 21st September 2014, for further information or to book visit here.