The American divorcee who won the heart of a British King was a huge scandal in its day.
Stylish and witty Wallis Simpson charmed Edward, the Prince of Wales, in a right royal soap opera that had the whole British nation getting its knickers in a knot.
Edward became the king for a mere 325 days before he abdicated to marry Mrs Simpson, in a move that saw him relegated to a Duke, ostracised him from his family and provoked their exile.
We and Them was written by Lena Farugia who also stars as Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor. She does it superbly, switching between eras as she plays the doddering old lady who still retains her witty and acerbic tongue, then casting aside the walking stick to portray Wallis at 40, when their affair was flourishing.
Farugia’s script is amusing, at times poignant, although sometimes a little too detailed as it strives to confirm its historical accuracy.
Wallis Simpson is widely credited with coining – or at least adopting – the phrase “A woman can never be too rich or too thin.” Impossibly thin Farugia lives up to both those goals, portraying a quaking, fearful Duchess when she realises her money is running out and the wife of a King may yet end a pauper.
Poker-faced Robert Davis plays Douglas her butler, never cracking a smile in that delightfully stuffy way the gentry demanded of their servants. He also plays the Duke of Windsor, and it’s only when he switches character that you notice a cunning resemblance to the royal family.
In her final years the wise-cracking Duchess, who once described the Queen Mother as “the old, fat one” has become ill and absent-minded. That makes We and Them a play of words, not action, as the old lady totters around the stage perfectly decorated as an upper class Parisian apartment in the late 1970s.
It’s a nice vignette of history and amusing, classy entertainment. But it’s now a tale of olden times from another country in another hemisphere. Which is why this production, as fine as it is, may not draw an enthusiastic audience in South Africa today.
We and Them runs at Sandton’s Old Mutual Theatre on the Square until October 23.
For more of Lesley’s musings follow the links alongside.