Kensington Palace, London – until 30 March 2020
Les Enfants Terribles are back with a truly sublime show exploring the lives of Queen Caroline and Henrietta Howard.
Rejoice! It is 1774 and we are all invited to party to celebrate King George II’s birthday – but underneath the celebrations is an underlying tension between Queen Caroline and her husband’s mistress Henrietta Howard.
In true Les Enfants Terribles style, this site specific show at Kensington Palace after hours is a richly absorbing and fascinating experience – no matter if you follow Queen Caroline’s path or Henrietta’s.
Directed by Christa Harris and co-written by Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Anthony Spargo, United Queendom has great potential in which it explores the different paths that each woman has taken in their life. But it certainly could use further development to really tell the story of these often overlooked women in greater detail.
Yet the characterisations are brilliantly realised by all of the cast, not least Stephan Boyce as Lord Hervey, Yasmin Keita as Henrietta Howard and Lavinia Co-Op as King George II. Each performance is wonderfully flamboyant, enhanced by Susan Kulkkarni’s gorgeous costumes and the exaggerated make up and wigs designed by Victoria Stride. The whole show has a classical feel about it with a contemporary twist that works well in Kensington Palace which really comes into its own after hours.
The journey I went on was focused on Henrietta’s story and what a story it was. A woman who came to court to protect herself from her abusive husband, only to catch the King’s attention, finding herself in a different kind of prison wanting to break away and find her freedom. It is astonishing that more isn’t known about her and her story.
There are some wonderful moments to be found – particularly as the audience is invited to a salon, which in this grandest of settings really makes the audience feel as though they have been swept back to the 1700s, while the audience interaction is also pleasing adding to the relaxed atmosphere.
It is an entertaining experience that could certainly afford to be developed further to shed further light on Queen Caroline and Henrietta’s stories – but it succeeds in part in highlighting two lives and stories that are rarely heard about. Wonderfully entertaining.
By Emma Clarendon
United Queendom continues to play at Kensington Palace until the 30th March.