Graeme Of Thrones | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Leicester Square Theatre, London

Graeme Of Thrones

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Leicester Square Theatre, London

Allegedly, knowledge of HBO’s sprawling fantasy epic is not necessary to enjoy Graeme Of Thrones – though it absolutely is. Too often I was left behind as the audience guffaw at character parodies and in-jokes that require you to be a fan. For me, when star Ali Brice impersonated Sean Bean, my first thought was of fellow comic Adam Riches’s unforgettable spoof of the Sheffield-born actor, not Ned Stark. It’s definitely a drawback.

The premise is that this is a presentation for potential investors in a Game Of Thrones stage show – a sort of Dungeons & Dragons Den, if you will. To showcase the production, super-fan Graeme (Brice) has put together a low-budget taster of what could be.

In essence that boils down to a series of sketches inspired by the grisly goings-on in the Seven Kingdoms. And even though Graeme wants to keep it family-friendly, the pals he’s roped in – Bryony, a super-intense actress fighting the patriarchy, and Paul, a tecchie who reluctantly finds himself on the stage – have other ideas.

The script – by Spymonkey’s Toby Park and comics Andrew Doyle and Dan Evans – naturally revels in the extravagance of the original. Sansa Stark’s first period is an especially over-the-top celebration of bad taste; while elsewhere there are cheap gags about dwarfs and better ones about the strangely well-kept Lady Garden of Queen Daenerys Targaryen after a year on a horse.

Others have less impact for the casual observer, and a couple certainly outstay their welcome, some silliness involving puppet dragons or a scripted take on the old improv staple, of translating an incomprehensible language, Dothraki in this case. Somehow Drogo picks up some English, though, which leaves him sounding like Stavros.

While there’s fun to be had with the epic-on-a-budget idea, the disjointed nature of the show means you can’t invest in the fantasy characters’ stories unless you already know them from the TV.

There’s richer pickings to be had from the storyline about trying to stage the show, which Brice capturing the desperation of Graeme to see his vision through, however flawed.

All the cast are great. Bryony and her alter-egos are played with compellingly unhinged potency by Libby Northedge of bafflingly strange sketch duo Twisted Loaf, while Mark Davison is sympathetic as a mild-mannered, stick-in-the-mud worm Paul, who turns when the pressure gets too much. For there’s as much scheming and double-crossing backstage as there is in George RR Martin’s worlds.

But it’s not enough to win over a muggle (wrong franchise, right?). The success of Graeme Of Throne, which is at the Leicester Square Theatre for five weeks before a 2016 nationwide tour, will depend on whether GOT is as popular as the chattering classes think. Its record-breaking audiences for Sky Atlantic suggest it might be.

Review date: 12 Dec 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Square Theatre

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