Kensington Palace has been transformed into ‘The Enchanted Palace’ by Wildwood Productions, famous for their outdoor installations and carnival performances, evolved from Kneehigh Theatre Company.
The brief was to create a magical world through which visitors could explore the history of the palace, and the early lives of the princesses who resided there. Vivienne Westwood, William Tempest and Echo Morgan have created installations using the ‘incredible and dramatic stories of the people who lived in the palace as the springboard, ’ with each room telling tales of secrets, jealousy, love and loss brought to life by interactive theatre.
While I enjoyed some of the installations, I felt that the story was fragmented (deliberate?) and didn’t link well from room to room. It could have done with more audio support that would help tell the story as it unfolded, or more actors to accompany you from room to room telling the tale. Instead the actors only appeared every now and again, pottering around cupboards, mumbling, and casting spells.
The other problem was negotiating the crowd of people that moved from room to room which meant that some of the flow of the story was lost. I did however get a real sense of the emotions felt by the princesses that were dramatised through lighting and props such as the collection of antique glass bottles, called ‘tear catchers’, where tears were put in bottles in times of mourning. One of my favourite pieces is Westwood’s interpretation of a Georgian dress, based on the rebellious Princess Charlotte. It stands on the steps of the King’s staircase, against William Kent’s portrayal of George I’s court, looking over the painted banisters as the dress ‘takes flight’. A fan set near the dress would have really brought it to life.
Really worth a visit. A selection of my favourite parts of the exhibition are below…The exhibition runs until this June.
Westwood’s dress for ‘a rebellious princess’
‘The Cupola Room’ by Boudicca - my favourite installation, centred on time pieces with mechanistic dresses circling the room - stunning.
‘Of the World’ by Echo Morgan
Phoebe, outside the Palace. Outfit designed and made by Phoebe.