Falling in Love Again
By Ron Elisha
The King’s Head Theatre, 115Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN to 8 February 2020.
Tues-Sat 7pm. Mat Sun 3pm.
Runs 65 mins. No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 226 8561
Review: William Russell 19 January.
It is the eve of the abdication of Edward V111 and the man about not to be king is closeted in Fort Belvedere while Wallis Simpson is in France, having taken fled from the scene while the House of Windsor grappled with what to do about the lovers just as it has in recent weeks with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their desires to live a different life together. Marlene Dietrich, in England make a fairly dreadful movie with Robert Donat is alleged to have paid him a visit for heaven knows what reason – to see whether she could intercept herself between him and that other adventuress lady Wallis or just to suggest that he might think again about what he plans to do. It is a nice idea to confront the world’s most eligible bachelor – Edward was tiny and not all that handsome but the public at large was not to know that and royal portraits then, as now, lied – with the Hollywood siren. It is said she was turned away. Elisha specialises in what he calls “speculative history” and this is very speculative indeed. One doubts whether any would be seductress or someone intent on offer agony aunt services would turn up equipped with a musical saw in a violin case for a start. To be fair she did play the musical saw, having trained as a violinist in her youth, but films intervened. She did, however, play it from time to time throughout her life especially in wartime concerts for the troops.
But the rest of his plot is pretty preposterous although Ashton Spear and Ramona von Pusch make brave stabs at creating these two self obsessed and wilful beings and the time passes harmlessly enough. It was a mistake for von Pusch to essay some of Dietrich’s songs and she bears little resemblance to the 1937 Dietrich but that is by the by, and gets some ghastly dresses to wear, even changing in to the royal tail coat at one point and donning a top hat – since she is rather taller than he is, which could well have been the case, that the suit is too large is somewhat surprising. That said it was a pleasant enough way of passing an hour on a chill January afternoon and Elisha has come up with one rather neat thought. The King reads out his abdication broadcast speech to her in which he says he was doing so to live with” the woman I have chosen to marry.” Marlene demurs. He should say “with the woman I love.” The phrase has, of course, echoed down the years.
If Elisha’s pleasant little theatrical trifle has any resonance for today it is to remind oe that the Windsors of 2020 have been every bit as ruthless dealing with the Sussex two as they were with Edward and Wallis in 1936.
King Edward V111: Ashton Spear.
Marlene Dietrich: Ramona von Pusch.
Director: Tama Matheson
Lighting Designer: Jen Watson.
Sound Designer: Andy Divers.
Production photograph: Phil Swallow.