Royal Vauxhall, 2 Stars

Royal Vauxhall
Royal Vauxhall Tavern and UK Tour
27th Aug to 5th Oct 2017

“In 1988, Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett reportedly helped Princess Diana escape the pressures of palace life by dressing her in drag and smuggling her into London’s notorious gay pub: the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Twenty years after her untimely demise and based on real accounts, Royal Vauxhall commemorates Diana’s death by reliving the night of her life.

As the princess, the clown and the rock king sing, drink and dance together, their wild night unfolds as the weight of responsibility and the spectre of AIDS looms over them.

Now the stuff of urban legend, details of the trio’s night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern first came to the fore in the 1998 autobiography of Cleo Rocos: the longtime collaborator of Kenny Everett. Royal Vauxhall irreverently opens up this infamous evening as three high-profile friends explore their sexuality, their mortality and the claustrophobia of Royal family life.

Royal Vauxhall was developed and first aired at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, the celebrated gay pub where this notorious event purportedly took place, and one of the few iconic gay cabaret venues still standing. The show was written partly in response to the widespread closing of iconic gay and gay friendly pubs and clubs in London and around the country. It explores the need for safety and sanctuary for minority communities, as well as for famous people who need a place to hide.”

Carrie Marx as Princess Diana
Joe Morrow as Kenny Everett
MC Desmond O’Connor

Allegedly Princess Diana snuck off from the Palace to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern for a night out with her mates Kenny Everett and Freddie Mercury. What a great idea to bring this comedy musical to the actual venue where this happened – the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Peppered with many witty one-liners and some catchy tunes and a couple of wonderful ballads this potentially is a crowd-pleaser show!

However, where this ship capsizes is that there doesn’t seem to be anyone steering the production. There are Press releases already out a week ahead of Press Night. Reviewers not on the Press Night Press List. No printed Cast list. No programmes. Only one Press Image which is the Cast outside the venue and no production photos. “See if  you can find a stool somewhere” seems to be the front of house advise. It’s all a bit shambolic!

And unfortunately, this continues into the production. The 1st half runs at 30 minutes and the 2nd half at 40 minutes. It’s very unusual for a show to have a longer 2nd half than 1st and the 2nd half drags it’s way through a pastiche of “Wankity Wank” with an audience person on stage while the show flags and flounders at this point with nothing much to say, and the book not progressing in the slightest.

There is no set, a handful of props, and not many costumes. The moving lights flash on and off incessantly. The tungsten light fixtures have a flicker from start to end. The lighting rarely rarely illuminates the cast – a centre small hard white spot occasionally shines onto the stage above their heads. The cast wander through the audience, a lot, in the dark while the lights spin around the stage.

There is a clear lack of any technical ability, production quality, or direction (directed by Zoie Kennedy). Which is a huge shame as the cast have a great rapport with the audience, are very personable, have some lovely songs and a show with lots of potential that doesn’t deliver.

And at £7.50 a glass for a not-very-nice white wine, a barman who’s not bothered that I find the wine undrinkable, there isn’t a lot going for a night out at the RVT to see “Royal Vauxhall.” Very disappointing!


(Photo by Phil Harris)


25 August
Shambala Festival, Northamptonshire

29 August
Box Office: 01273 647100
Komedia, Brighton                                                                                                

30 & 31 August
Box Office: 020 7820 1222
Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London                                                                                 

3 September
Box Office: 0845 293 8480
Komedia, Bath                                 

6 & 7 September
Box Office: 020 7820 1222
Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London

15 September
Box Office: 0844 854 2757
York Barbican, York                                                                                               

17 September
Holbeck Underground Ballroom (The HUB), Leeds

18 September
Box Office: 07432 198 724
53Two, Manchester

19 September
Box Office: 0117 902 0344
The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol                                                                         

21 September
Box Office: 01603 598646
The Garage, Norwich                                                                                           

5 October
Box Office: 0115 807 7900
Spiegel tent, Nottingham