New Chichester musical puts Edward and Mrs Simpson on the stage

A new musical Wallis – The Story of Wallis Simpson makes its debut at this year’s Festival of Chichester.

Jane Bramwell and Michael Brand holding the Wallis wedding newspaper June 4 1937
Jane Bramwell and Michael Brand holding the Wallis wedding newspaper June 4 1937

It comes from Brighton writers Jane Bramwell and Michael Brand and will premiere on Sunday, June 26 at The Pallant Suite, Chichester (tickets from the Festival of Chichester).

In his 1936 abdication speech Edward VIII explained that he could not be King without support of the woman he loved Wallis Simpson, Michael says: “When the British establishment deemed Wallis as unsuitable as Queen the consequences were profound.”

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For Jane and Michael it’s going to be a happy return to an idea that goes back a number of years: “Jane said she always wanted to write something about Wallis Simpson and I've always been intrigued by her and how she navigated divorce and what kind of woman she was but I didn't really know anything about her. I knew a bit about Edward but I didn't know about her so we read a lot around it and we came up with the show in 2008.

“But we realised that it was going to be quite a complex show dramatically. We put it away for a while. We did some demos and we had some good recordings of some of the songs but musicals are about much more than that. So in the mean time we did two or three other shows. And then of course we had lockdown and we thought during lockdown that we should go back to the Wallis Simpson show and that's what we have done. We have changed quite a lot and we have written new material and we do think we have got a strong narrative structure to it now.”

The result should be fascinating: “The British establishment wanted Edward out anyway and I do think he was slightly unfairly treated. During the 1920s and early 1930s he did a lot of work visiting the unemployed in Britain. On numerous occasions he was out there meeting people and the politicians didn't like that. He and Stanley Baldwin fell out heavily.

“When he got married his family shunned him completely and he got rather trapped by the idea that he wanted Wallis to be treated as royalty. He went to Germany and became interested in Nazism but you've got to understand that in the 1930s much of the British establishment was really wanting to find appeasement. I do think he was a difficult guy who never really grew up but I do think he got a rather bad press.

" In London in the 1930s there was quite a considerable American set. Edward’s previous mistress was American and I think Wallis Simpson fell into that. He loved the Americans because they were new. He enjoyed American company. The Americans thought Wallis was great but the British thought that she was rather brash. But I think you've got to remember that the 1930s were very male dominated. Here was a woman who spoke her mind and entertained and flirted and was really quite up front, and the establishment saw her as domineering Edward... I do think we can see royal parallels now.”