Ron Elisha’s new play Falling in Love Again is set in 1936, on the night before the abdication of Edward VIII, who famously vacated the throne to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Hugely topical, given the current travails of a royal family grappling with the respective claims of duty and love, the play is sure to draw notice.
In this whimsical reimagining of the King’s last night on the throne, Edward (known to his family as David) is joined by the ‘Queen of Hollywood’ Marlene Dietrich, who attempts seduction with a view to convincing him to put country before love for Simpson and change his mind about abdicating.
This is a potentially interesting conceit, but a lack of narrative development means that once we understand the basic premise of the play, the drama stalls. Ramona von Pusch offers a glamorous Dietrich to Ashton Spear’s rather cardboard-like Edward, but there is too little in the play for the actors to get their claws into.
The rather fanciful dalliance that ensues is hard to believe, especially when we have our real wild romance between a royal and media celebrity to compare it to. Nothing much happens in the play, except a lot of angst from Edward and much fooling about with a pretend golf match and a horse riding expedition. Many costume changes substitute for action.
The most enticing scene is perhaps when the duo read lines from George Bernard Shaw’s contemporaneous drama of the same theme, The King, the Constitution and the Lady, which historians say influenced the abdication. Unfortunately, comparison between the two plays does little to improve the one we are watching.
A couple of nice 1930s songs sung by Dietrich offer welcome respite from rather desultory dialogue. Thank goodness that, at 75 minutes, Falling in Love Again is short.
Falling in Love Again runs until 8 February at King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, N1 1QH.