The Last of the Duchess

24/10/2011

Edward & Mrs Simpson are something of a cultural phenomenon once again. Following hot on the heels of that fantastic Oscar-winning film The Kings Speech is a play at the Hampstead Theatre entitled The Last of the Duchess. If you get a moment to go and see it I thoroughly recommend you do… especially as we will soon have Madonna’s much talked about film W.E. to pour over in minute detail. Our fascination with this controversial couple seems very much au courant despite the main events happening over 70 years ago.

The play is set entirely in the Bois du Boulogne mansion which the Duke & Duchess inhabited in exile in Paris. On loan from the French government, the house played host to many a glamorous party over the years but in her last few became something of a prison for the Duchess who, at the mercy of those employed to protect her, became a reclusive and seldom-seen shadow. The play explores the character of her fearsome lawyer Maitre Blum, and in doing so paints a somewhat sinister picture of life for the Duchess as the glamour faded and the notoriety and paranoia came home to roost.

The cast is exceptional and lead by two household favourites, the wonderful Sheila Hancock as Maitre Blum, and Anna Chancellor who is instantly known to all as the actress who played Duckface in Four Weddings and a Funeral. She is really a very good actress  and has probably done masses of much bigger and better roles but that’s the one that has stuck. The acting is brilliant and whilst the play is highly fictionalised, the sinister undertones and unspoken nuances will leave you asking many more questions of the circumstances surrounding these characters that it answers. Which is definitely for the best… for the truth is… who really knows what happened?

The Last of the Duchess runs at The Hampstead Theatre until 26th November.

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2 Responses to “The Last of the Duchess”

  1. Lady J Says:

    And don’t forget Anna Chancellor’s scene stealing portrayal of Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice!


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