With the arrival of The Kings Speech last year, the life and times of Bertie, or King George VI to his subjects, is now well documented. His brother David, or Edward VIII as he was briefly known, was touched upon and is widely thought of as being the Nazi sympathising, American loving playboy. Bob Kingdom’s latest, An Audience with the Duke of Windsor aims to dispel the many myths surrounding Edward VIII/David/Duke of Windsor and give the man and the monarch a human face.
With the premise of a tell-all book on the horizon and the relentless pursuit of the press, the Duke wishes for a life of simple pleasures that centre around his beloved Wallis. In an evening full of anecdotes before, during and after his reign, this is a show clearly researched in depth.
From the man who brought us the tie knot, the turn up and the post war royal paparazzi hunt, he was a fascinating figure. The myth of the Nazi sympathiser is dealt with in one simple explanation. Being half German, he wanted to stress that being Pro-German did not mean he was Pro-Nazi. It’s detail like this and the length of his reign should he have remained on the throne that elevate this from a simple history lesson to an engaging piece of theatre.
What prevents us from engaging entirely is Kingdom’s delivery. Whilst he may sound like the Duke and have mannerisms that evoke the Duke, he doesn’t allow himself to own the material so what is clearly a well-researched piece rarely rises above the level of a reading rather than a performance. The passion of the man and the stakes of the piece are lost in amongst an impersonation.
Lost lines and stumbles aside, this showed the promise of putting a human face on a man surrounded by myth but lacked the passion and joy that made him pursue the woman he loved.