Pros: The beautiful set design and the acting.
Cons: The plot is weak and based on facts that the audience is expected to be familiar with.
Breaking off her engagement to Group Captain Peter Townsend, before marrying theatre photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the discontented princess was soon divorced and inclined to hang out with younger men from the lower orders. One of these lovers, the actor John Bindon, was even rumoured to be a gangland associate. Founding his script on this relationship and a particularly infamous episode from the princess’ life, reported by royal biographer William Shawcross, writer and performer Richard Stirling sets his play during a stormy night in the summer of 1993. That evening, with the help of the Queen Mother’s steward, William Tallon (played by Stirling himself), Margaret raided her mother’s room in Clarence House, removing a number of personal letters from different provenance. Armed with yellow rubber gloves, she then supervised the incineration of the correspondence, inside a dustbin of her flat, 1A in Kensington Palace.
This intriguing plot is enriched by the real-life drama of a woman trapped inside her royal title but, without the background information offered by the show’s programme, it relies too heavily on the audience being familiar with 25 year old gossip. The lines seldom offer explanation, and most of the details are taken for granted. The yellow rubber gloves, for example, appear on set without a clear reason – other than the princess asking for them – and disappear again minutes later, before I could work out their relevance to the story’s development.
Despite being imperiously delivered by a gorgeous Felicity Dean, many lines fall flat on the surface of a weak production, whose refined design isn’t supported by thorough research of the topics mentioned. At almost two hours, including interval, A Princess Undone could have unveiled the raw and vivid melancholy of a woman whose public role felt like an unpleasant obligation, but instead, it patches together isolated sketches that lack actual facts. From a technical point of view, I was quite disappointed with a lighting design that, throughout the performance cast shadows over the actors’ faces, regardless of where they were positioned on stage.
As someone who wasn’t born and raised in the UK, I found the premise about Princess Margaret rather intriguing, so I was disappointed at the plot’s failure to bloom and uncover the powerful portrayal of an icon with whom many of us are unacquainted.
Author: Richard Stirling
Director: Jonny Kelly
Producer: Entico Ltd in association with Park Theatre
Box Office: 020 7870 6876
Booking Link: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/a- princess-undone
Booking Until: 17 March 2017