Crown Matrimonial, currently being produced by Stage Centre Productions is a story about the 1936 abdication crisis, just like the recent popular film The King’s Speech, but with a very different focus. King Edward VIII, familiarly named David, was a brand new king who had not yet been crowned. He was also in love with a twice-divorced commoner, Wallis Simpson.
At the time it was considered quite scandalous and no one – not the royal family, not the government, certainly not the Church of England – would allow David to both marry Wallis and proceed with the coronation.
David insisted on marrying Wallis so he abdicated the crown and his brother Bertie became King George VI, despite the fact that that he hadn’t been trained to reign and he had a stutter that made him insecure. This is the part of the abdication crisis that The King’s Speech focuses on: Bertie’s struggle to overcome his stutter and his insecurity, which is why modern audiences connected to it. A person placed in an unpleasant situation, having to work hard to overcome the impediments in their path, is a timeless story.
Crown Matrimonial, focuses on David’s family trying to convince him to give up Wallis and David resisting. This isn’t something modern audiences can relate to, especially, as the show notes in its own program “Back then, no one could have imagined that the current Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, a mere 23 at the time, would himself ultimately marry a divorced commoner – the very situation which is at the heart of Crown Matrimonial. Most people these days seem to have taken this situation in stride. But such a possibility was considered utterly scandalous in 1936!”
If the play used the abdication crisis as scaffolding on which to tell a story about human relationships, it could have worked for me. For that we probably would need to meet Wallis herself. She does not appear in Crown Matrimonial, so all we hear is other people’s conflicting opinions of her.
The two main characters are David and Queen Mary and they endlessly have the same fight over and over again for far too many hours. The final scene in the play is entirely unnecessary in my opinion; my companion and I thought the show was over but the stage lights came back up and there was yet another interminable scene that I felt provided nothing to plot advancement or character development, or any other aspect of the story.
Stage Centre Productions is a community theatre company with good resources, as displayed by the richness of the costumes and set. They obviously put a lot of work into this production and they should be lauded for that. However, there is a community theatre level of skill at play, so they probably should not have taken on something as daunting as accent work. The blocking was often as stilted as the attempt to deliver convincing lines in an upper class British accent.
There were a lot of senior citizens in the audience who seemed to enjoy the show more than my companion and I. The story must be more relevant to someone who potentially remembers the abdication crisis and how important it was at the time. It also might be of interest to anyone who is an avid British monarchist. Otherwise, I’d recommend watching The King’s Speech instead.
– Crown Matrimonial is playing at The Fairview Library Theatre (35 Fairview Mall Dr) until November 26, 2011
– Shows run Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, with an additional matinee on Saturday at 2pm
– Ticket prices range from $22 to &27.50
– Tickets are available online or through the box office at (416) 299-5557