If you are a monarchist by inclination, Paul Haworth’s play Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer makes for an ‘interesting’ hour! Part satire, part ‘coming out’ tale, David G. Lees plays the self-named “David” who is the Royal Family’s No. 1 fan. And the crème de la crème’ of the Royals past and present (at least according to “David”)? The Queen Mother.
Using the framing device of a ‘sex party for monarchists’, the audience are the ‘lucky few’ who are gathered below Camden People’s Theatre for food, clips of royal events and the possibility of group (gay) sex. The reason for this impromptu gathering? Officially it’s to celebrate the Queen Mother’s birthday, but as we’re told about childhood memories in Glasgow, a bigger picture emerges. Pomp and circumstance play a big part of “David’s” fascination with the Royals’ activities, though he does project his own thoughts and fantasies on what the Royals are really like.
Author and playwright Sue Townsend in her 1992 satire The Queen and I depicted the Queen Mother as the most socially adaptable Royal who is very partial to Gin & Tonic and a flutter on the horses… Similarly for “David”, the Queen Mother has the devil-may-care attitude of Princess Margaret, but without the unhappiness and bad choices that dogged her life.
“David” as a character is a mass of contradictions, but that is where much of the play’s humour stems from. Not known for its Royalist leanings, Glasgow is an isolating environment for David, hence his move to London. But as a 30-year-old gay man from a conservative background who still hasn’t came out to his mother, his life has been on hold – not fully embracing the lifestyle he wants. In this sense he is life runs parallel with Kenneth Williams, another icon from yesteryear. David’s inexperience in ‘orgy ettiquette’ shows as he finds nothing wrong in the incongruity of serving crisps, biscuits and other food – along with baby oil…
In another life, “David” was possibly Noel Coward with his love for the monarchy and unwavering devotion to the Queen Mother. His idea to hold a seance and ask her for advice on imminent decision reeks of inspiration from Blithe Spirit, though I dare say even Coward would would have baulked at the nerve of summoning the Queen Mother on a matter of a sexual nature..!
So why was this show titled Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer? Well, it’s a well-known hymn that has been used at many royal occasions over the years. This, much like his affinity with the Queen Mother, “David” see’s no distinction between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘profane’ – except when it comes to a talking to a real person like his mother, who has hopes of heteronormative marriage for him. Will he ever muster the courage to tell her what he really wants?
© Michael Davis 2017
Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer ran at Camden People’s Theatre on 13th and 14th May 2017. It runs again in The Vestry at the Oak & Pastor Saturday 20 May (5.30pm, 8pm)(tickets: http://bit.ly/2nOaR04).