La vie en rose: Dead Royal @Ovalhouse

Charbonnel et Walker pink champagne truffle boxes are piled up in an apartment. A video is hooked up playing Gone With The Wind. I’ve Seen That Face Before is playing in the background. And then Chris Ioan Roberts as Wallis Simpson vomits pink muck all over blue and white floor.

Is it an aversion to seafood that she does not want to admit for fear of being considered too common? Or was it too many Charbonnel et Walker truffles? Whatever the cause you are left without any doubt that for the next sixty minutes you are in for a show that is going to be camp and dirty.

Dead Royal, which has concluded its run at Oval House theatre makes use of original quotes drawn from interviews with Wallis Simpson and Diana Spencer.  The premise is that in 1981 on the eve of the royal wedding, Wallis invites Diana to warn her to flee the impending marriage - before she too is considered someone willing to crawl over broken glass to grab a royal title.

Chris Ioan Roberts performs both roles. Here Wallis is like a faded southern belle, forgetting the names of the help, while Diana is a bit thick, finding it too hard to read a book so she spends all day making it look like the book has been read.

With frequent pop culture references, mix tapes and video recordings the work draws on what is known (or purportedly known) about the two as Roberts moves about a gaudy room that has overdosed in eighties pastels and sickly sweet perfume.

Wallis and the rest of the Royal Family get more barbs thrown at them than Diana (perhaps it is still too soon to be making the same sort of deeply offensive and vulgar observations about her).

It is a fascinating premise although part through I did wonder whether it would have more impact if the dual roles were played by a woman.

Still the piece is less about the women depicted and more about their enduring legacy as icons of their age. Look out for where it goes next. But steer clear of the truffles and seafood.


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