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The Three Lions

Sean Browne, Tom Davey and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart in Three Lions by William Gaminara, St James Theatre, London Sean Browne, Tom Davey and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart in Three Lions by William Gaminara, St James Theatre, London
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Contemporary theatrical satire is all in the timing. The National scored a bull’s-eye last year when it announced Richard Bean’s Great Britain, about the News of the World hacking scandal, the very day after Rebekah Brooks’ trial ended and opened it just four days later, having rehearsed it entirely in secret. Now William Gaminara’s The Three Lions seeks to hit similar targets with a broad satire about the campaign led in 2010 by a newly elected David Cameron, a newly engaged Prince William and David Beckham to secure the 2018 football World Cup for Britain by going to lobby FIFA in Switzerland.

They were based at the Steigenberger Hotel – in the words of the Daily Mail at the time, “certainly not one of Zurich’s plushest hotels”. Gaminara now seizes on this real-life story to provide a behind-the-scenes, fictionalised farce of what might have happened there. But unlike the National, he’s now five years late with the story, and the world has moved on. The play, premiered on the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago, hasn’t just lost topicality; it has also lost an indulgent Edinburgh audience who are prepared to laugh at anything.

The comedy, however, is lame, tame and mostly forced, for all the spirited and polished comic impersonations provided of the protagonists. Sean Browne is the most physically accurate as an extravagantly tattooed David Beckham, and the play gets its best comic mileage out of sending up Beckham’s supposed lack of intelligence – but it’s hardly the kindest or most intelligent way of depicting the footballer. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart is all eager bumptiousness as David Cameron, which comes across as really quite flattering, and Tom Davey’s practical joker Prince has his moments.

Dates: March 24-May 2, PN March 26

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Tired, dated comedy has long past its sell-by-date