Ron Elisha’s play Falling in Love Again is pure conjecture, imagining what might have happened if Marlene Dietrich, a German film star in Hollywood, had visited Edward VIII – as she allegedly attempted to do – the night before he gave up the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson.
The abdication has been dramatised many times on stage and screen. However, rather than providing a fresh perspective in the form of this unexpected visitor, it still feels like it’s treading on well-worn ground.
The protagonists feel randomly thrown together. The anti-Nazi Dietrich fears that an abdication would mean chaos in Europe, so it jars that she seems only mildly perturbed by Edward’s admiration of Hitler.
A night of singing, dancing, horse riding and golf ensues, never to be featured in the newspaper pages that cover the set. Elisha’s clunky dialogue features basic slips (a monarch is addressed as “Your Majesty”, not “Your Royal Highness”) and Tama Matheson’s staging veers between the prosaic and camp (a romantic climax occurs when Dietrich suggestively plays a musical saw).
Ashton Spear and Ramona Von Pusch give credible performances as man-child Edward and cultured sophisticate Dietrich, but they struggle to gel as a pair due to the way they are made to interact in such an artificial manner.
Inadvertently coinciding with another royal crisis, the play does at least highlight that, when withdrawing from royal life, it’s easier to engender public sympathy when it’s presented through a romantic lens. “Quite tiresome, this royal preoccupation,” the soon-to-be ex-king comments. Indeed.