Fie on me for not having investigated the Buxton Fringe earlier than this. After all, the Peaks are just a few stone-throws away from my doorstep. Thankfully, myself & Mrs Chopper have remedied that error at last – and in fine style too, by yomping down the A6 to see “Do You Still Throw Spears at Each Other?”, a glorious yarn about, and narrated by, “HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh”.
Obviously, His Nibs was not actually there. George Telfer played the Duke instead, and the play itself was written by Sheffield’s own Steve Haythorne, whose own fiery wit led me to think that this might be a rather scathing portrait of Philip. But this play isn’t a quick, venomous stab at royalty, a la Spitting Image; the humour and satire is a hell of a lot more sophisticated than that.
For a start, Mr Haythorne Knows His Stuff – he has researched the life and times of Philip so that every word the character speaks rings of gospel truth. The script is laden with nuggets and factoids, but they are woven so well into the monologue that you barely notice them. And the jokes themselves are often at the expense of other people than Philip himself – Myleene Klass cops for a few, as do varied members of the royal family, the Daily Express (a joke in itself, some might say), Himmler and Tony Blair.
On top of that, Mr Telfer is an exceptional interpreter of the material. The walk, the mannered pauses, the gladhanding of the audience – all nailed perfectly, until you can almost believe that this avuncular old toff is the real thing. And that’s the real genius of the show – it presents you with a version of Phil that you actually have some sympathy for, even if, like me, you can’t normally stand the Windsors.
There’s one more performance in Buxton after tonight (on Saturday, I think) but, as the poster wot I’ve nicked makes clear, the show goes to Edinburgh in August. If you’re up there, don’t miss it: it should be pick of the Fringe this year.