Why playing Princess Margaret is Stephanie Beacham’s own Everest

Stephanie Beacham in A Princess Undone SUS-160410-112127001
Stephanie Beacham in A Princess Undone SUS-160410-112127001

Stephanie Beacham takes on a major new role in A Princess Undone when she becomes the first actress to play the part of Princess Margaret.

The play is set in Kensington Palace in 1993 when Princess Margaret feels she has one last chance to be of service.

While the royal family is at Balmoral, she removes several bags of correspondence from the Queen Mother’s home, including potentially sensational letters from Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, with the aim of burning them.

But there are other papers, relating to Margaret herself and an older scandal. When a former gangster arrives to bring her even closer to her past, the Queen’s sister has the choice to make or break her family yet again.

Stephanie, acclaimed for her work on television (The Colbys, Dynasty, Bad Girls), film and stage, returns to the theatre to create the role of Princess Margaret.

Following rehearsal she told the Herald: “It is fabulously exciting. I just am so lucky to have this opportunity. There are jobs you do that are nice, but just jobs, and then comes along one and you think - this is going to be my personal Everest; I am really doing it.

“Margaret was a very intelligent woman but her own worst enemy in many respects.

She was thwarted by the establishment and she fought that ever after. She loved being a princess but she didn’t find her real purpose in life.

I have discovered so much about her and found some fabulous research, and that is very enjoyable as well. This is win, win, win. I think that we will have a play that will be funny, provocative and sad.”

She believes problems really started for Princess Margaret when she was not allowed to be with the man she loved and went on to marriage with Lord Snowden. The relationship ran into difficulty and when she was later linked with Roddy Llewelyn it all ended in scandal and divorce.

“She was the last of the princesses. She was not popular, with the public always seeing her on Mustique and all that, but she was not given a proper job at home. She wanted to be useful. But she was not given choices. She was not allowed to marry the person she wanted to marry and yet she was not protected.”

Stephanie compares Margaret to another famous princess: “She was Diana before Diana. She was everything when she was young. She was on magazine covers every week and she became an It-Girl, a party princess, and no-one could go home until she said they could go home.

She was very royal, terribly pretty with a 16 inch waist, and I don’t think getting older suited her. I’ve known famous American stars who were It-Girls in their time and they didn’t enjoy getting older and not having that power any more, the appeal of their looks and popularity. She was not necessarily always popular though, not like the Queen. But the two of them I believe had a private line and they spoke every single day of their lives. The one thing never in doubt was Margaret’s belief in her sister.”

Stephanie most recently worked on Boomers on TV but is not daunted by being back on stage: “It is not scary: it is a bit like going back to the gym, you have just got to do it every couple of years. My last proper theatre was Masterclass, when I was being Maria Callas.

“But no-one else has tackled Margaret. She is all mine. I love playing difficult women, love finding out the why and wherefore of what makes them tick.

It is a wonderfully constructed play by Richard Stirling, very complicated, and a rollercoaster ride. You have to know which way to lean - it is a challenge and a delight. It is a labour of love.”

Nightly performances from November 1-5 are at 7.45pm ,and Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets priced at £15.50 - £23.50 with concessions available for evening performances, to book call 01323 412000 or visit www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk.