Review Round-up: Wright's Duchess Bows in Hampstead
The action is set in a mansion near Versailles, where Wallace Simpson nears the end of her life and her French lawyer Suzanne Blum (Sheila Hancock) desperately tries to 'protect' the Duchess from the determined journalistic efforts of Caroline Blackwood (Anna Chancellor).
"Wright’s first act, teeming with high-society tittle-tattle, is like a staged edition of a vintage Tatler. It lacks the double perspective to mine universals from its aristocratic subjects. However, after the interval, Wright settles down to business proper and presents a proper journalistic duel. While Blackwood, joyfully played by Anna Chancellor with the lolloping surliness of a tipsy teenager, builds towards a cry of 'J’accuse', Blum guards the Duchess with parries and deflection. Wright makes an entertaining and even bout between the ruthless and the rueful. Beneath all this is the question of truth and representation. With both Blackwood and Blum’s versions skewed by their opposing motives, Wright’s concern is with history’s gatekeepers ... Chancellor and Hancock make worthy adversaries, each filling their role with characterful forthrightness, but Richard Eyre’s production would be better served by a less literal staging. Though Anthony Ward’s copper green gauze walls add a ghostly quality, the naturalistic setting – all regency sofas and antique statuettes – emphasises Wright’s light drawing-room comedy over its titanic clash. It does, however, allow decent comic turns from John Heffernan and Angela Thorne as Michael Bloch, Maitre Blum’s own loyal protector, and Lady Moseley respectively."
- Natalie Generalovich