Butter Side Up Theatre Company’s Game of Thrones: A Spoof Musical – 1 October 2021, Theatre Deli, Sheffield
Review by Daniel O’ Key.
“Admit it… you were disappointed with the final season of Game Of Thrones” reads the promotional material of Butter Side Up’s Game of Thrones: A Spoof Musical, written and directed by Sian Meredith and performed at DINA venue on the 1st-2nd of October. Two and a half years after the show’s finale, that remains an understatement the size of Cersei Lannister’s blood/alcohol content. The whiplash-inducing character development, absurd plot contrivances and uneven pacing of Game Of Thrones’ finale are ripe for satire. And after a pandemic-delayed original show date in March of 2020, Butter Side Up Theatre Company returned with another parody-musical, following Batman: The Spoof Musical in 2018. So, should you have broken the Iron Bank and bought a ticket? Was it the Play that was Promised? Were Tik Tok and Never Ever Getting Back Together the songs of Ice & Fire all along?
The Spoof Musical satirised the final season of Game of Thrones from beginning to end. Meredith’s script showed no mercy in lampooning the final season’s biggest plot points: including the discovery of incestuous family lineages, the anticlimactic stabbing of demigods and the oblivious guzzling of medieval Macchiato’s. The parody, unlike the entire internet, never feels malicious in its satire, which made it an easily enjoyable experience for the audience. The dialogue felt its strongest whilst ribbing the original plot and character dynamics, however the vaccine references, election quips and fourth wall-breaking interactions between the cast and technical team felt slightly forced. Nevertheless, what shines through is that the show was clearly penned by a genuine fan of Game of Thrones, which played a part in both acts flying by and getting consistent laughs from many of the audience.
As this was a spoof musical, the action was interspersed with 80’s cheesetastic classics and (criminally!) forgotten 2010’s pop. Butterside Up seem aware of their younger audience, and wisely chose songs that would likely be familiar to those on the millennial/Gen Z fringe. The clear standout number being Prince’s Purple Rain, performed with the strongest vocal performance of the night by Kyle Baker as Jon Snow and well-pitched interjections from Becky Cleary as Daenerys. However, comedically not all the song choices felt fully cohesive. The opening number had its share of entertainment thanks to a key guitar solo courtesy of Jamie Wainwright as Podrick Payne, but the choice of The Final Countdown felt a little too obvious, a little too “spoof musical 101” to elicit belly-laughs. Rihanna’s S&M also felt an immature choice for a sexually awakened Arya Stark, and the lack of playfulness and energy made the number discomforting to watch. However, many of the musical’s biggest laughs came from the insertion of Game of Thrones references into the lyrics, once again showcasing writer Sian Meredith’s dry wit and an awareness of her audience.
The set design was well-judged: featuring minimal background set and a high attention to detail in the costume department. Though it would have been nice to see one or two more set pieces based on the lush locales of Westeros, the show flowed well without the constant moving back-and-forth of grandiose objects. And the cardboard construction of the titular Iron Throne was genuinely impressive and a credit to the talent of those who created it. The costume of Cersei Lannister felt almost like-for-like for the original, and even more admirable without an HBO budget. Seeing Robert Plaice as Tyrion Lannister wearing a purple office shirt, grey trousers and contemporary shoes broke the immersion slightly, but if there are coffee cups in Westeros, surely there are inbound call centres somewhere too. So, all is forgiven.
Most of the standout performances have already been mentioned in this review, but special credit must be given to Rob Lee, whom was one of the few cast members to imitate the accents and mannerisms of the many characters he portrayed. As Euron Greyjoy; his drunken, testosterone-riddled attempts to woo Cersei Lannister were genuinely nuanced, and mercifully more on the right side of broad than the screen interpretation of the character. In future productions, directors involved with Butter Side Up should be vigilant of certain cast members smirking whilst delivering lines regardless of the context of their scenes, as this too broke some immersion and lessened the comic effect of their characters.
Game Of Thrones: A Spoof Musical had an arduous journey to the stage, including being cancelled the week of its original performance in March 2020. Butter Side Up deserve great credit for rehearsing a full musical in CO-VID conditions and getting it to the stage. If you love Game of Thrones, pop music or a winning combination of the two, then I would recommend the show when it is soon uploaded to Butterside Up’s official YouTube page. You will see a committed cast, some sharp writing, and a fun time. I would certainly see another production by this emerging company, that is slowly carving its niche in the Sheffield theatre scene and bringing back the live experience we have all desperately missed.