Scandalous Women in London Part Deux - The Lion in Winter & Enchanted Princesses

A family Christmas becomes a family at war. Henry II, not so young as he was, invites his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitane, and his three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, to spend the festive season with him, his mistress Princess Alais, and her brother, the young King Philip of France. Will Henry name who is to be his successor as King of England? Their yuletide celebration turns into a combat zone of deceit, betrayal, bitter power games and scabrous wit.

"I am excited to be directing the London premiere of a famous play about a power struggle full of sexual politics and political sex, with two such brilliant actors as Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley." - Trevor Nunn

I had no idea when I decided to attend the matinee of The Lion in Winter that it was the London premiere! I had just assumed that there was a London production soon after the Broadway one.  Although given that the Broadway production was a bit of a flop, perhaps I was a bit optimistic.  Still, the movie was very successful, so I was very surprised to find out that this was the first production in London.  And what a theatre to be in! the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, one of the most beautiful in London.  I was lucky enough to score a really good seat in the Royal Circle for 20 pounds just before the Thursday matinee.  It was an impulse purchase, I had planned to buy a ticket for the evening's performance but changed my mind when I got to the box office.

Although I have seen the film starring Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn more times than I can count, I have never seen a stage production of The Lion in Winter, not even the Broadway production which starred Laurence Fishbourne and Stockard Channing at the Roundabout here in New York. The movie is one of my favorite films, and I was afraid that the play and the actors would not measure up to the movie.  Well, I should have worried about the play given that James Goldman, the playwright, adapted his script for the film. However, it was in the performances, that the show fell short.  Joanna Lumley, who I had previously only known from Ab Fab and The New Avengers, was actually quite good as Eleanor of Acquitaine.  A little low energy at first, but her performance grew as the play went on.  Robert Lindsay, on the other hand, seemed to be channeling Peter O'Toole.  He not only looked a bit like him, but also sounded like him, it was a bit odd. If I had closed my eyes, I would have sworn that it was Peter O'Toole on stage.

The biggest disappointment for me were the sons. Anthony Hopkins, John Castle, and Nigel Terry's performances are seered into my memories. I couldn't help remembering their line readings while watching the play, which does a great disservice to the actors who were doing their gallant best on stage, but it was just impossible for me not to compare them and find them a bit lacking. I did adore the actress who played Alys, and the scene between her and her brother Philip, a shame that they cut that scene out of the movie. It gives Alys more shades to play than just the mistress, and we get to see a bit of their relationship. In the film, it's hard to remember that Alys and Philip are brother and sister. Although it fell short of my expectations, I am glad that I went to see the production.  Trevor Nunn did a very good job of staging the play, and the set was gorgeous, and given that I saw it only two weeks before Xmas, it felt appropriate!

The day before I had gone to see the Enchanted Princess installation at Kensington Palace.  The Palace right now is going through a great deal of renovation, so only a few of the rooms were open.  I haven't been to Kensington Palace since my semester abroad in college, so just walking up to the Palace was fascinating. Right now, it's covered in a lot of barbed wire but I did get a little giddy when I saw the statue of William III outside. The Enchanted Princesses exhibition features the 7 Princesses who made Kensington Palace their home, Princesses Mary and Anne (later Mary II and Queen Anne), Queen Caroline, Princess Charlotte, Princess Victoria, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana.  While the installations were interesting, particularly Princess Mary, I found the experience a bit lacking particularly in relation to Princess Diana and Princess Margaret.  It's more of a sight and sound experience, with clues left so that you can guess which room relates to which Princess.

Perhaps I was expecting too much, or perhaps my experience was colored by the fact that I just gotten off the plane that morning, and the weather was cold and rainy.  Plus there were no bathrooms available inside the palace, just the porta-potty outside! 

I wish there had been a guidebook specifically done for the exhibition the way that Hampton Court Palace did a special HELLO! magazine issue for Henry VIII's wedding to Katherine Parr (how I wish I had bought that issue!).  However, I did find the gift shop exciting, particularly the Queen Victoria china which I'm dying to own every piece of.


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