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Review: A Princess Undone, at Park Theatre, Park 90

Brittle comedy and bright repartee in portrait of the Queen’s late sister

01 March, 2018 — By Howard Loxton

Felicity Dean as Princess Margaret and Richard Stirling as William Tallon – aka‘Backstairs Billy’ – in A Princess Undone. Photo: Simon-Annand

THE princess is the Queen’s late sister Princess Margaret and Richard Stirling’s play presents her in her apartment in Kensington Palace going through bin bags of letters, photographs and newspaper cuttings collected by her mother.

It is August 1993, following what the Queen called her annus horribilis, and now Margaret and the Queen Mother’s butler William Tallon appear to be on a damage limitation exercise to ensure nothing compromising or embarrassing survives to go into the national archive to further damage royal reputations. As she lights yet another cigarette and knocks back the whisky you sense she is also enjoying this and may be on the lookout for ammunition for future use.

A clever woman, she had no real role, especially after Diana took over being the family patron of culture. Now she keeps an eye on the comings and goings of “Golden Girl” Diana’s male visitors and she and “Backstairs Billy” Tallon use binoculars to spy on “Rent-a-Kent” Princess Michael.

Margaret has a sharp tongue but is bitchily funny and Felicity Dean captures precisely her switches from being one of the gang to a snob pulling rank if things don’t go her way. But her put-downs though clever here don’t seem so lethal; there is a sadness behind the eyes.

A young man (Alexander Knox) says he’s a friend of her son and arrives with the right password warning that an old flame is talking too freely, but is that why he is there? Margaret knows anyway; she’s summoned actor and ex-gangster former lover John Bindon (Patrick Toomey) to the Palace.

This is brittle comedy, bright repartee making up for lack of plot, and Felicity Dean and the author, as acidly camp Tallon, play it with polish.

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