Review: The Last Great Lady, Strawberry Hill House

Review: The Last Great Lady, Strawberry Hill House

 

What better way to witness one of Surrey’s most beautiful listed properties than in toe of becostumed actors in a promenade play, writes Rob Edwards

This was my first visit to Strawberry Hill House, and from the moment I glimpsed its grand exterior I was eager to survey its stately halls, not least to shelter from the freezing December air. 

A grade one listed property, this gothic castle is beautifully restored with elegant carved wooden fixtures and bombastic shades of red.

The play is haunting – and I speak literally – as the passed husbands of Lady Frances Waldegrave, Strawberry Hill’s ‘Last Great Lady’, return to her in her last days and lead the audience through the salons of high society and a bygone era.

Intelligent, moving, and occasionally witty, I was impressed with this slightly surreal retelling of history – an engaging means of celebrating this landmark and flaunting the £8.9 million restoration, which reopened in 2010.

Horace Walpole designed the current edifice, complete with towers and battlements, between 1747 and 1792. The audience is beckoned from one exquisite room to the next to witness Lady Waldegrave’s dying efforts for closure, and a beautifully choreographed ball complete with period gowns and original music.

Polly Smith seems to have stepped out of the nineteenth century. Her composure and delivery are incredibly convincing in the lead role, aided by playwright Dianne Cutlack’s superb period references to Gladstone, Ireland and the trials of social class distinction.

The play runs until Dec 19. Expertly directed by Gemma Colclough, this is a gem not to be missed. For tickets visit strawberryhillhouse.org.uk or call 020 8744 1241.


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