She in turn spends $100 a week on her hair and pines for a more glamorous post, while attempting to put aside the “condensed hatred” of the monarchy toward her. (On that point, Diana does come to mind.) A diversion of sorts is provided by the murder of moneyed island hotshot Sir Harry Oakes, whose putative killer, local bon viveur Alfred de Marigny, is someone for whom Wallis may once have had “the hots.” In fact, the blame was subsequently found to lie with Oakes’ partner, Harold Christie, a third figure mentioned but not shown in this very underpopulated play.
What is shown are the none-too-credible exchanges of a thoroughly unlikable couple, notwithstanding a belated soliloquy of sexual fever for Wallis that looks like a last-ditch effort to rouse a slumbering audience. Lest his revisionism be said to have run amok, Wilson starts backpedaling in the second act, introducing a note of mawkishness to persuade us that we should care. An ace production might enliven the repartee, but Simon Callow’s staging is as flat as Christopher Woods’ tropical design is cheap, and the director does Redgrave (whose stage work elsewhere in recent years has been exemplary) no favors at all.
Barking at a stuffed dog and talking to his shoes, Redgrave’s Edward is a dim, even creepy eccentric with oddly colored orange hair. Donohoe at least brings a commanding sneer to her character, though it’s a shame about her wildly off-the-mark accent, which sounds Australian. It’s a measure of the level of subtlety of “HRH” that she talks of being “so very very happy” with an expression to freeze the blood. The look is one the actors may well find meeting them across the footlights as the playwright’s apparent ill will is more than matched by the house.