H.R.Haitch, Union Theatre

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by guest critic Amy Toledano

In a time when our world seems to be headed for destruction thanks to the likes of Brexit and Trump, it is comforting to reflect on a more progressive time. Iris Theatre’s latest production H.R.Haitch does exactly this by focusing in on an typical London family at the end of 2011. Throw in some fantastic music, highly energised performances and a royal wedding, and this show entertains from start to finish.

With an impressive set that boasts a pub (with working beer taps!) below and palace on top, the play opens with a musical number that is not only memorable but introduces the characters in a charming and hilarious manner. Maz Evans is to be praised for her quick and witty book which often has the audience in fits of laughter. Another important mention is the musical work of Luke Bateman, who paints the show with a colourful and merry score. In particular, Emily Jane Kerr knocks it out of the park in her solo number with her brilliant comic timing and powerful voice as the sinister Princess Victoria.

It is apparent that the cast have a real love for the material as the energy sustained throughout is never failing, especially from the charmingly dim leading man Prince Albert (played by the delightful Christian James). The chemistry between James and leading lady Tori Allen-Martin is sweet and a joy to watch, as is the rest of the cast.

The use of doubling actors is also excellent, especially from the talented Christopher Lyne who convincingly portrays a loveable and big hearted Barking lad as well as a snivelling Prince. His mannerisms and detail in differentiating these two characters was of the highest order and made the show that much slicker.

The choreography is also cute and punchy and compliments the score perfectly, with the cast performing with style and ease. The use of television news onstage is also a clever device that provides just enough information to the audience and is never overused – as can often happen with multimedia in theatre.

H.R.Haitch is a brilliant example of the future of musical theatre in Britain and walks a playful line between politics and humour that provides an important dialogue about the ridiculousness of our current state of world. It ticks all the boxes of what a great, entertaining musical should be and leaves the audience smiling for its entirety.

H.R.Haitch runs through 2 June.

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