I guess the camp meeting for Queen of Oz was overthrown in almost record time.
“Catherine Tate as a black sheep of royalty sent to Australia for rehabilitation”, or so. It practically writes itself.
From his previous sketch comedy, Tate was born to play an anarchic and irreverent thug. So the idea of a party princess when discussing republicanism is truly a no-brainer (despite the concept being Canadian in origin).
Tate plays the privileged Princess Georgiana, who navigates her way through boring events like officiating school anniversaries, while still reeling from her latest late-night hangover. But the latest embarrassing incident, splashed on the front pages of Fleet Street, is her straw that breaks the back of her parents.
The mansion’s private secretary (Nicholas Bell) is given the job of relaying the bad news. HRH needs to be shipped to Australia to inject a bit away from the palace and grow.
The plan is also for her to put down a land surge for a Republic, with the current Queen abdicating her jurisdiction over Australia, and for Georgiana to become Queen of Oz. Huh?
Australian Prime Minister Rebecca Stewart (Rachel Gordon), who echoes a local Jacinda Ardern as much more than a Julia Gillard clone, will also be on hand to assist in this rather bizarre mission.
But logic aside, there’s plenty of mirth in the fish-out-of-water scenes as Georgiana heads south to her new quarters at Macquarie House. Expect plenty of gags about time zones, the weather and the Hemsworths as her lady-in-waiting Anabel (Niky Wardley), private secretary Bernard (Robert Coleby) and personal assistant Matthew (William McKenna) land with a thud.
“It’s Australia or bust,” notes Bernard “…he proves to be an asset rather than a liability.”
Even when she meets her fiery Security Marc (Rob Collins) and Head of House Weiwei (Anthony Brandon Wong), Georgina has all the demeanor of someone who can barely get out of bed for tea and scones. Even his simple Aussie director of communications Zoe (Jenna Owen) has to reset his expectations and casual airs of her to handle this new
The first challenge is an evening hosted by the prime minister, meeting local dignitaries and media moguls Richard Steele (David Roberts), whose papers are eagerly itching for the clickbait he will deliver. This commentary on royals needing the media, and vice versa, is part of the fun the writers unleash under the direction of director Christiaan van Vuuren. Just wait until episode two when Australian veteran Maggie Dence plays the tycoon’s mother, not to be confused with anyone else of local fame…
When she’s not looking Married at first sightGeorgiana is a hellish force to be reckoned with and it takes her jaded personal assistant, steadfast private secretary and icy security to damage control in her wake or bring her into line.
Yet in two episodes there is no sign of that success which, despite some cheerful punchlines and physical comedy from the talented Tate, threatens to make her abrasive personality too unsympathetic. Yes, it’s easy, yes, the gags are funny, but without some vulnerability or sign of redemption sooner or later it’s grotesque fun at best.
Special mention to William McKenna in a comic performance, in contrast to his recent dramatic performance The messenger, and you will see Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Lewis Fitz-gerald and cameos from Emma Alberici, Jonesy & Amanda, Richard Wilkins and again Rodger Corser, Dave Hughes, Daniel Lapaine, Lynette Curran and Zoe Carides.
The notion of becoming Queen of Oz it seems like an elegant title rather than a believable concept, and it didn’t need to be justified in the plot itself (I would have bought it without said abdication), but thankfully Tate is in top form here. There is a lot to enjoy from this royal suit.
9:35pm Wednesday on ABC (all episodes binge on iview).