Theatre Review: Princess Ivona at The Courtyard Theatre

Royal wedding fever is paralleled in 1930s Russia in The Tower Theatre Company’s timely production of PRINCESS IVONA.

AT A TIME of Royal Wedding fever, the decision to stage Princess Ivona is an inspired one - encouraging the audience to turn aside from the celebrations and wonder what it is all about.

Considering the play was written in the 1930s by a Polish writer then living in Argentina, it is astonishing how apposite it is to Britain in 2011. There is an ironic observation of class roles, and questions are asked about the nature of love, wealth, corruption, fear, life and death. We have to work out the answers (if any) for ourselves.

Although the playwright denied it, Princess Ivona presents as an absurdist piece, with touches of the surreal. It is performed by on a disintegrating chess board, ingeniously designed by Jo Staples, with garish indications of palatial luxury. A coffin-like bench reminds us that, absurd and entertaining as the antics of the players are, death is waiting at the end.

The acting is universally of the high standard we expect from The Tower Theatre Company, with particularly strong performances by Ian Recordon and Anne Connell as the king and queen. And Josephine Timmins makes a creditable stab at the near-impossible part of the Princess herself who, as the playwright repeatedly informs us, is uninteresting, apathetic and ugly!

But there is a restraint and solemnity about the production which causes it to drag, particularly in the second half. If the characters had been encouraged to develop their absurdities, we would have been better entertained.

* Princess Ivona was performed at The Courtyard Theatre in Bowling Green Walk, N1, from Tuesday, April 26 until Sunday, May 1.