Graeme of Thrones
Charing Cross Theatre
Tickets from £25.50
Until the 11th November
As the cultural behemoth that is Game Of Thrones lumbers towards its climactic eighth season (which is scheduled for 2019, leaving next year a dragonless slog for sword and incest aficionados) it’s easy to forget that when it first debuted in 2011 it was something of a punt rather than a guaranteed success. At the time HBO was riding high on the critical and commercial successes of shows like The Wire, The Sopranos and dearly departed Deadwood (if you have not seen Deadwood I can only apologise. Not for referencing it but for how your life has turned out) and announced that they were actively looking for riskier shows to produce as a symbol of their confidence and dedication to artistic development. Their decision to take a chance on Game Of Thrones has paid such massive financial dividends that the company is going down a decidedly less artistically heroic route by desperately rushing four Game Of Thrones spin-offs in order to try and keep hold of that lightning in a bottle.
The cast of Graeme of Thrones are also attempting parlay Thrones’s blitzkrieg success into cold hard cash; only their lack of HBO’s start-up capital (along with the legal adaptation rights and actual acting talent) have forced the three man cast to cut some corners. Graeme Of Thrones is ostensibly a proof of concept demonstration before a bunch of wealthy investors (the audience itself) by a rag-tag trio led by the Graeme of the title (played by John-Luke Roberts, with a certain disaster ridden charm that favourably recalls Julian Barrett). Graeme has put the show together whilst crashing on his friend Paul’s (Ross Spaine whose wiry physicality provides plenty of laughs) sofa after being dumped by his girlfriend who eloped with a Foxtons agent (this is a masterstroke of characterisation, only Nazis are more inherently despicable than Foxtons employees). In an attempt to bounce back Graeme gets the idea of cashing in on Thronesmania with a theatrical extravaganza and ropes in both Paul and his ‘classically trained’ actor friend/oblivious crush Bryony (Nicola Lamont, the clear highlight, who seemed almost pathologically incapable of not getting a laugh) to put together an on the cheap version of their “19 hour, four hundred actor” strong vision of the finished piece.
Plays about amateurs botching performances are enjoying something of a vogue at the moment with The Play That Goes Wrong and The Play About The Bank Robbery cleaning up on the West End (say what you like about Graeme Of Thrones but it’s title is certainly zingier than the competition). Graeme of Thrones broadly follows that template with the drama shifting between the hysterically bad renditions of key moments of the Thronesverse including an impressively DIY version of the opening credits, a puppet Joffrey who is made to tower above a decidedly un-dwarf sized Tyrion via some oversized props and an imagining of the death of King Robert from the perspective of the boar that killed him, which includes a great deal of Tesco value ham being lasciviously tongued. Whilst the play is marketed as being fully enjoyable for non-Thrones watchers, there would be little point in going along without having watched the series as so much of the humour is so specific, however the initiated should have a great time. Graeme Of Thrones isn’t particularly subtle and goes after its comedy with a sledgehammer approach that might not particularly impress the comedy intelligentsia but it overflows with heart and some really quite high calibre jokes. On top of this Graeme of Thrones demonstrates such a genuine affection for both the source material and the pathetic struggles of its own characters that it’s hard not to get swept up in Graeme’s tribulations. The night may be dark and full of terrors, but Graeme of Thrones shows that it can be pretty funny if you’re Game.
FOUR OUT OF FIVE STARS