Wallis, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, theatre review: ‘Fresh light on woman who won a king’s heart’

Emma Odell as Wallis Simpson in Wallis. Picture: Mitzi de Margary

Emma Odell as Wallis Simpson in Wallis. Picture: Mitzi de Margary - Credit: Archant

Everyone knows about the American divorcee that cost Edward VIII his throne.

Now, Jennifer Selway has researched the matter thoroughly and discovered more information about Wallis Simpson and her background.

It was difficult to understand why the Prince – the good-looking playboy – should have fallen so deeply in love with ‘That Woman’. She was not beautiful, aristocratic or rich.

She wasn’t even very nice, but she had something that kept the Prince close to her, that even drove him to give up the throne for her.

She was good company, a witty and lively conversationalist, so why couldn’t they have just remained friends? Was it an excuse for him to evade his heavy responsibility?

It certainly wasn’t her idea. She was ambitious and would have been delighted to be Queen, but it seems she was reluctant to marry him when she knew he would have to abdicate.

Selway‘s play deals with their meeting, their romance and ends with their marriage.

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We are kept up-to-date with the story by another couple – the butler (Robert Hazle) and housemaid (Katie Arnstein) – who have their own romance and are privy to the superior couple’s perverted sexual tastes.

The butler also plays the piano from time to time and gives us witty commentaries – à la Noel Coward – to music by Simon Slater.

Emma Odell gives a completely convincing performance as Wallis and the prince is played by Windsor look-alike, Grant McConvey.

There is a great deal of very funny bitchiness from the rest of the cast.

They joke that from the size of Wallis’s hands and feet, she must have been a man. Luckily, the press didn’t pounce on that information until the Prince announced his abdication on the BBC.

A very entertaining evening with many revelations, and originally devised by John Plews who directs the production. Well worth the trip to Highgate.

Wallis runs at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

Rating: 4/5 stars