The Queen’s Knickers is an excellent name for a play, or, in fact, a book (by Nicholas Allan), which is where it all started originally. You know that it is an excellent name, because when you told the Star that’s what he was going to the theatre to see, he repeated it a few times to himself and went off to translate it for Babushka. And then every now and again would pop up out of the blue with the name, having presumably found something else to amuse himself with about it.
The Queen’s Knickers is actually part of the Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre this half term. You were offered free tickets for it, which you were delighted to accept. The Southbank Centre is, after all, fabulous even when you aren’t going inside. It looks like a multi-storey car park, all grey concrete and levels, but it’s amazing how much fun can be had going up and down the steps to see what’s round this or that corner, playing on the street furniture and the concrete, astrograssed and whitewashed play equipment, watching the skateboarders down by the river and so on, and that’s when the place isn’t swarming with under tens. You always get a bit lost when you go there, and you always come across something that’s worth the ten extra minutes trying to figure out which way Waterloo is. They outdid themselves during the Olympics, with an entire beach full of coloured sand down by the Thames. But even now you were quite convinced that the Star wouldn’t want to disappear inside to see something as tame as a play.
You needn’t have worried. That name sucked him in.
The Queen’s Knickers is a two-woman play about the national crisis that occurs when the Queen’s entire collection of specially designed underwear goes missing. There is much business with pants large and small, frilly and plain, patterned, multicoloured and the frankly weird. There are songs (about knickers). There is dancing (with knickers). There is dressing up (in knickers). There are quick changes and a vast array of characters. There is an amusing riff on Chinese whispers, which even made B crack a smile, and which the Star was quoting on the way home. There are puppets, there is audience interaction, there are puns, and best of all there is a special appearance from a very important personage indeed (go on, guess who), which the Star was very impressed by. There is a message, and one which not only justifies what could otherwise be seen as a truly impressive amount of genuflecting towards the monarchy, but which is also a slightly more interesting insight into the human condition than you usually get in improving entertainments aimed at kids (or perhaps it is just one you approve of). And for the four year olds, who don’t care about that, there is more risqué knicker action to finish off with.
There was also more concrete inside the auditorium. You took a photo.
Anyway. It was fun. The Star, who was decidedly squirmy before you started, got into the story and his wiggling became shifts to get a better view. And when it was over you asked him if he liked it.
‘It was so funny my head nearly fell off,’ he said.
This, you feel, is about as high praise as any play is going to get.
You didn’t get to many of the other events at the Festival because you and B were distracted by the Real Food Market. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. However, as they have some live baby animals for the children to pet there, this was not a problem for the animal obsessed Star, who spent a happy half hour trying to feed straw to the lambs, piglets and calves.
Good. Now you have an excuse to go back later in the week.
Disclaimer: So I didn’t get paid for this, but I did get complementary tickets to the play from the Southbank Centre.