United Queendom at Kensington Palace
United Queendom has a really interesting premise, put on by a company known for producing exciting work. I therefore had really high hopes for Les Enfants Terribles latest production. Their latest show is set in Kensington Palace and tells the story of Queen Carolina and Henrietta Howard who resides at Kensington Palace with King George II. United Queendom attempts to re-imagine these women’s stories and focus on what united then rather than what may have divided them.
The concept was remarkably clever and soon after arrival the audience is divided into half, those who get the invite to a party by the King and those who do not. From this stage the audience experiences a different show, coming together at well timed moments as we weaved our way through the corridors and grand halls of the Palace.
The reality of the show however failed to live up to my high expectations. Whilst the setting of the production in the Palace itself was a masterstroke it may also have been what held it back. The production felt constrained and as if the full creative efforts had been reigned in.
Within the narrative the audience were repeatedly told that Queen Caroline and Henreitta Howard were both fabulous women but we only got a glimpse into their lives to discover this for ourselves for a very short moment. This moment was when Henreitta’s resignation conversation was retold in their own words. It was moments like these that the show needed to focus on but instead we saw numerous conversations between courtiers which simply told the audience what to think instead of letting us discover it for ourselves. This approach also meant that the female empowerment vibe struggled as demonstrated by the lacklustre cheering of ‘Queendom, Queendom’ from my half of the audience.
The immersive part of the show also felt rather forced. it was unclear as to the audiences role in this, were we there to observe or to join in the party. It seemed like there was an attempt at the party atmosphere however this sat at odds with the style of narration throughout.
My comments do not take away from the cast that performed the piece and throughout they kept in character, interacting and mingling with the crowds well.
The costumes and makeup by Susan Kulkarni and Victoria Stride brought a refreshing feel to United Queendom. There was an appropriate nod to the period of the show, with flashes of neon colour and suitably dishevelled wigs. They were certainty head turning and in keeping with the revolutionary theme that Les Enfants Terribles were trying to create. It was a shame that this vibe created by the costumes, hair and makeup didn’t spill out further into the show itself.
For a show that had a relevant theme of female empowerment, an incredible site specific venue and a company that normally put on outstanding shows I couldn’t help but want more. I wanted to leave singing the praises of the immersive experience but instead I left thinking about the building and a ticket for that is less than half the price of United Queendom.
United Queendom is on until until 30th March. You can find out more and book tickets on their website.