Given the popularity of the monarchy these days, one forgets about some of the more unsavoury types who’ve reigned (however briefly) in the last century. One such was Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1938 and only reluctantly withdrew his Nazi sympathies after the war had started. In Sarah Sigal’s intriguing one woman show, Rebecca Dunn plays Lady Pamela More, a (fictional) fashionista and columnist for The Times recruited by MI5 to probe the newly demoted King’s fascist leanings through his wife, Wallis Simpson.
A perfectly enjoyable mid-afternoon show.
Dunn’s RP-tastic performance in the central role competently affects More’s transition from apolitical socialite to bravely conscientious patriot, while delivering a crisp, pacy and often devilishly witty narrative. There is an enjoyably schlocky wartime thriller feeling to the piece- characters pop up with names like ‘Flossie Brackenburg’ and the story is chockful of espionage, ambassador’s receptions and deeds of derring-do.
And yet the piece achieves a balance between that rather broad tone and some more nuanced and troubling exploration of the political volatility of the pre-war years, in which bubbles of fascist sympathy- Moseley and the blackshirts lurk around the edges of the piece- were erupting up all over Britain. Further, Sigal’s script thinks deeply about the condition and considerable sacrifices of women throughout this ruthlessly patriarchal time: even Wallis Simpson herself isn’t drawn entirely unsympathetically.
There are a few problems: very little is done with a large and cumbersome set and the staging is rather pedestrian. Given the narrative heavy nature of the script, one feels it might have worked better as a radio play. Some rather stodgy stock music undermines, rather than bolsters moments of high suspense. The distribution of the plot beats is slightly wonky: the ending feels somewhat rushed and crams a good deal of the (rather exciting) action into the final ten minutes. It may not quite soar, but it’s a perfectly enjoyable mid-afternoon show.