MRS ROOSEVELT FLIES TO LONDON
by Alison Skilbeck.
King’s Head Theatre 115 Upper Street Islington N1 1QN To 9 May 2015.
Mon–Sat 7pm Mat 9 May 3pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7226 4443.
Review: William Russell 17 April.
A memorable visit by a great lady.
Long before there was Hilary there was Eleanor, the longest-serving First Lady of all – her husband Franklin Roosevelt was President of the United States from 1933 to 1945. As a political figure she was every bit the match of the woman who now hopes to become the first woman to be elected President, except she devoted her energies to working for her husband.
Eleanor Roosevelt, who died in 1962, is perhaps forgotten today but she had an amazing career as political campaigner, diplomat, and First Lady – she was chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights when it drew up the Declaration of Human Rights. Alison Skilbeck has devised a fascinating one-woman play focusing on the visit Eleanor made to London in 1942 to see how the American troops were getting on.
Skilbeck, a tall, angular lady, is not really all that like Eleanor, who was as recognisable in her time as Hilary Clinton is today, but the passage of time means it does not matter. She creates her own Eleanor, an impressive, elegant, eccentric woman of the world, one who survived a difficult marriage – her husband was unfaithful – and in later life embarked on a long Sapphic relationship with the journalist Lorena Hickok.
She belonged to an American political dynasty – uncle Theodore was President when he gave her away in 1905 at her marriage to Franklin, a distant cousin. The couple did not divorce in spite of his infidelity, because that would have ended his political career.
Instead, living separate lives in the sexual sense, they became political partners. After he was stricken with polio she became his alter ego, and being a woman who spoke her mind, smashed lots of glass ceilings along the way.
Skilbeck’s monologue is fascinating, informative and intriguing, her delivery impeccable and the result is an evening of unfamiliar delights bringing back to life a most extraordinary woman.
Mrs Roosevelt: Alison Skilbeck.
Director: Lucy Skilbeck.
Designer: Jane Heather.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Sound: Emma Laxton.