Tweetingit: 3* An enjoyable if lightweight tale of the King of England and Queen of Hollywood. Some things never change!
With exquisite timing the premiere of Falling in Love Again lands at the King’s Head Theatre. Slap bang in the middle of this week’s crisis in the Royal Family one wonders if mystical powers are at play. It tells the story of a meeting between two 20th Century icons; the ill-fated King Edward VIII and movie siren Marlene Dietrich.
A brilliant premise for a play and based on true events. Dietrich visited Fort Belvedere on the eve of King Eddie’s abdication; and this is Ron Elisha’s take on what might have happened that night.
It’s December 1936 and the House of Windsor is about to rock with the King (Ashton Spear) preparing for abdication. But wouldn’t you know it Marlene Dietrich (Ramona von Pusch) pops in for a cup of tea. Preparing to forsake his country for the woman he loves; and then confronted by one of Hollywood’s sexiest women; what is a King to do? The pair spend the evening verbally jousting with Dietrich at her seductive best. But will Edward fall for her fatal charm and slip off the wagon one last time?
The set is decorated with newspapers and press clippings of the day; but otherwise bare save for a chaise lounge and desk. In context, the play hangs together reasonably well and both actors deliver sound performances. The script is tight but generally plays too safe. Moreover, it adds little to the sum of human knowledge and lacked sparkle. I was hoping it would be played for laughs; the comic possibilities are infinite. Hedonism is a gene in the Royal Family stretching right back to Edward VII; and an American divorcee turning the head of a wayward prince has great potential. It was a rich seam of material never properly explored. Instead, it relied on the standard biographical formula; yes, they did meet on the eve of abdication, but it’s also likely they would have crossed swords on numerous occasions. Bearing in mind their respective track records, it’s entirely possible they would have been intimate. So, the notion of whether they did (or didn’t) on that night is hardly a cliff-hanger.
It might be easy to lampoon the Royal Family; but it’s difficult to move for articles, books, documentaries and films analysing their every movement. Humour can take the edge off and provide some light relief. In an age where deference has long since disappeared, we can easily poke fun at those who enjoy (or suffer) privilege. That said, Falling in Love Again is a good play that ticks all the boxes; but lacks the humour that would surely turn it into a massive hit.
Writer: Ron Elisha
Director: Tama Matheson
Producers: Ron Elisha/King’s Head Theatre
Box Office: 0207 226 8561 and website
Booking Until: 8 February 2020