Villa Windsor, Paris, 1981 – Wallis, Duchess of Windsor aged 82, invites Lady Diana Spencer aged 19 to a despair-laden bachelorette party on the eve of her wedding to the Prince of Wales. Dead Royal is a lacerating, camp-drenched celebration of 1980s narcissistic megalomania.
Having spent weeks preparing her decaying, prison-like mansion with its 29 servants, the Duchess frantically warns Diana to flee her impending marriage – before she marries the wrong man and becomes immortalised as someone willing to crawl over broken glass to snatch a royal title.
This vulgar comedy explores the notion of those marrying into the royal family and how they are regarded by history. It is a piece riffing on drag, early 80s fashion, Princess Diana obsession, historical melodrama and physical theatre.
The script makes use of original quotes drawn from interviews with Wallis Simpson and Diana Spencer and evokes the plantation period of the Deep South and the clipped drawl of the Sloane Ranger. The relentlessly inappropriate language evokes a sense of otherness to allow audiences to feel as if they have intruded on a private moment.
Chris Roberts, one of London’s most subversive actor-directors, plays both characters – two women performing for men who are unable to redeem themselves. Roberts comments: Like extracting venom from two idle snakes or being bludgeoned to death with one of the Queen Mum’s Christmas hams, I promise a night of catastrophic royal madness. Is there any other kind? Dead Royal is on the verge of deep tragedy but hysterical at the same time.
Chris Ioan Roberts in particular is someone to watch out for. He is going from strength to strength, both figuratively in the quality of his deft modulation between the tragic and the comic… (Time Out Melbourne).
Dead Royal is supported by Arts Council England.
Dead Royal by Chris Ioan Roberts
Tuesday 21st April – Friday 24th April 2015, 7.45pm
Saturday 25th April, 5pm
Running time 60 minutes
Ovalhouse, 52-54 Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW
Tickets are available from ovalhouse.com and 020 7582 7680 priced £10 (concessions £6).