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Do You Still Throw Spears At Each Other?
Published on Sunday, 08 July 2012

5 starsArts Centre Studio, Theatre
10 Jul, 6:45pm-8:00pm; 14 Jul, 7:30pm-8:45pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

What was he thinking of? There's really no knowing what was in the Duke of Edinburgh's mind, when he made his now-notorious observation on Aboriginal culture. Regardless of the truth, plenty of people have used it as the perfect opportunity to throw brickbats at the Duke of Edinburgh - but in this affectionate portrait, revived for the Jubilee year, George Telfer mounts an appropriately regal case for the Duke's defence. And you know what? He won me over.

Telfer's portrayal of Philip is partly an act and partly an impression, and while I don't know if he's captured what the man is really like, he's a perfect mimic of how we imagine him to be. The episodic history of the prince consort's life is cleverly punctuated by walkabouts through the audience - and it's striking how comfortable Telfer seems in his role, responding to glitches or minor distractions with a well-chosen word or a lift of the royal eyebrow.

For the most part, the Duke is a genial host, sharing wry observations on the excesses of the media and the obligations of the royal household. The messages are, perhaps, predictable ones - the endless duty of nobility, the life forever eclipsed by the Queen - but there's agile wit as well, with many of the anecdotes ending in an unexpected one-liner. And yet there's imperious, righteous, almost frightening anger when the subject turns to Diana, where Telford takes it on himself to defend the Duke in the way a real royal never can.

For its revival, the script's been brought right up to date (listen out for the devastatingly accurate characterisation of the Queen's Jubilee barge), but for me the best stories were the early ones - which shed light on those facets of the Duke's upbringing which few of us know about or understand. His tales of wartime service are filled with rakish devilment, but most intriguing of all is the suggestion of genuine lost talent, and how different his life could have turned out if he'd never been asked to entertain the young Elizabeth Windsor.

Committed republicans, of course, won't buy into any of this, and the play doesn't even attempt to change that legitimate point of view. But for neutrals - or even monarchists - who've learned to sneer at the Duke's indiscretions over the years, Do You Still Throw Spears At Each Other? offers both interesting insights and wicked humour. The script's crafted to perfection, and the acting's better still. In the end, when it comes to criticism, I've really nothing to throw its way at all.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.