WALLIS – A CERTAIN PERSON
by Jennifer Selway.
Music by Simon Slater lyrics by Jennifer Selway.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, to 26 June
Highgate Village, London N6 4BD to 26 June 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sundays 4pm/
Runs 2 hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8340 3488.
Review: William Russell 3 June.
He got what he wanted, she got trapped. Well worth catching.
Plays and films about Edward V111 and Wallis Simpson abound, mostly pretty terrible. Whether one needs another attempt at telling their story is anybody’s guess, but this reworking of a tale often presented as the greatest love story ever told – he gave up his throne for the woman he loved – is very well worth catching.
This Wallis as an adventuress, a brash, clever, witty once divorced married woman from Baltimore who became the mistress of David, the Prince of Wales, and lived to regret it for the rest of her life. She was doing what she had always done when she arrived in London with businessman husband Ernest Simpson – collecting jewels, making society friends, indulging in the high life and playing the field with his consent. She ended up like a fly trapped in amber.
David was a spoilt, sexually inadequate child man who always got what he wanted – the complaisant society wives who serviced him for a start – someone to whom nobody, in spite of a pretty dreadful relationship with his father, had ever said no.
It is not a great love story, but a story of obsession, of a woman doomed to endure a marriage she did not want and a totally pointless life for decades to come.
Jennifer Selway and Ricky Plews have devised a smart, brittle and entertaining play framed with a collection of songs by Simon Slater in the manner of Noel Coward sung with brio by Robert Hazle.
Things are helped by fine performances from Emma Odell, lanky and suitably striking, as Wallis, and Grant McConvey, baby faced and oozing petulance, as David. Alice Pitt-Carter has some choice moments as the ousted mistress, Thelma Furness, and Lee Ormsby is suitably nasty as the courtier and fixer pal, Fruity Metcalf, who bought off the embarrassments on behalf of his boss.
It is a tale about different times, different attitudes. The British public was kept in the dark about the affair, divorced women were social outcasts, and the politicians and churchmen behaved almost as badly as the Windsors. The result is salutary to say the least and quite unlike the home life of our current dear Prince of Wales. Designer Emily Bestow has created a terrific set which changes before one’s eyes as the action moves fron the Simpson’s flat to the Ritz, to the Furness home, and to Fort Belvedere in Windsor Great Park.
Pearl Jones: Katie Arnstein.
Raymond Crabbe: Robert Hazle.
Wallis Simpson: Emma Odell.
Thelma Furness: Alice Pitt-Carter.
Ernest Simpson: Tom Slatter,
Edward “Fruity” Metcalf: Lee Ormsby.
Lady Emerald Cunard/Lucy Baldwin: Eliza McClelland.
David, Prince of Wales: Grant McConvey.
Directo: John Plews.
Composer: Simon Slater,
Designer: Emily Bestow.
Lighting Designer: Sam Waddington.
Costume Supervisor: Harriet Fowler.
Voice Coach: Eleanor Boyce.