Theatre Review: Untitled

Posted on: 26 February 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Laurence Green reviews Lena Farugia’s new play Untitled at the Finborough Theatre in London.

‘A woman with a history from a nation without one’ is how the subject of Lena Farugia’s new play Untitled is described at the Finborough Theatre in London.

Paris in the 1980s; dazed by prescription medicine, a frail old American lady is a prisoner in a grey mansion on the Bois de Boulogne.  Once the most famous woman in the world - she is Wallace, Duchess of Windsor. 

Her crime - to be a divorced woman who fell in love with a member of the British royal family - the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII - precipitating his abdication from the throne to marry for love: the greatest crisis ever to befall the House of Windsor and a grave threat to the British Constitution itself. 

Ten years after his death, we find Wallis in a twilight world where her beloved ‘David’ has never really left her.  As she refuses to relinquish the vivid memories of her extraordinary past, we discover the incarceration of this vibrant and stylish woman is so vital to those whose lives she changed so dramatically. 

Her past is too full, the damage to her husband’s family too great, her ostracisation too complete for her to be anything other than a dangerously loose cannon.

This play, in which the past is seemingly intertwined with the present, provides an intimate but insubstantial portrait of a woman who became a black sheep to the royal family and the victim of hate mail by the public and whose memories recall an era of wealth and privilege that has long gone. 

Admittedly the work tells us nothing we didn’t already know about its protagonist-in-exile but it is imbued with some sharp witticisms such as ‘everything improves with age except women’ and ‘did you know that mother-in-law is an anagram of Hitler woman?’

Director Peter Cregeen coaxes a convincing central performance from Nichola McAuliffe who manages to inject a certain degree of sympathy into the role of the Duchess, while Patrick Ryecart lends fine support as both her valet and the Duke of Windsor.  The Evocative set by Alex Marker contributes much to the atmosphere and mood of the play.

By Laurence Green

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