Review: A Princess Undone - The Cambridge Arts Theatre.
Stephanie Beacham captivates the audience from the moment she steps onto the stage, removes her heels, slips into her diamanté slippers, and let’s rip with a string of bad tempered obscenities.
This one-set play is centred around one evening’s events at Kensington Palace in 1993. Princess Margaret (Beacham) has removed several bags of correspondence from the Queen Mother’s home, including potentially sensational letters from Prince Charles – and Diana, Princess of Wales and plans to destroy them.
In the process of sorting through the papers, she discovers evidence of events that relate to her own past and the skeletons come tumbling out of the closet.
Beacham pulls off the sassy, belligerent, and sometimes crude princess the media portrayed and she herself seemed to revel in, with style, but she also shows us a softer, more vulnerable side, especially when she talks about her children and her sister.
Inspired by actual events, A Princess Undone attempts to give us an insight into a controversial and enigmatic member of the royal family during a period in history when Princess Diana was beginning to tread a similar path in a desperate bid to be recognised in her own right. Beacham had the audience rocking with laughter, but there were also gasps when she was less than complimentary about Diana, in particular, and scathing about other royal family members.
When former gangster John Bindon turns up to demand money for photographs taken on the island of Mustique in the 1970s, the play takes a more sinister turn and it is at this point that you really need to know your history or at least have some idea about the context of events.
Gary Webster is brilliant as the Queen’s Mother’s butler, and his frantic attempts to protect his employer’s interest and remain calm and professional in the face of a situation that seems to be spiralling out of control is hilarious. It is also good to see Webster shake off his wide-boy image and take on a more diverse role.
It has to be said that A Princess Undone is not for the faint-hearted or possibly the most staunch of royalists. The language is colourful and the references and jibes about royal family members are cutting.
The less easily offended among us will just enjoy this glimpse into a window in history with powerful performances that will leave you wishing there was more.