The Royal Wedding Review: A Not So Happy Occasion

May 17, 2010 by  
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ROYAL WEDDING: Monday 17th May, BBC2, 9pm ALERT ME

Do you remember the 1980s? Well, in case you don’t there was a woman called Margret Thatcher who used to be the Prime Minister of this country. She was to preside over a rather vicious recession that led to strikes, rioting and eventually an unnecessary war in a bid to unite the country behind her. Alongside this there was also a couple called Charles and Diana of not-so-average stock who were about to marry in St. Paul’s Cathedral sending the country into mass hysteria.

The Royal Wedding is set during a street party in Wales – presumably because it’s ‘their’ prince about to tie the knot – on the day of the grand union and details the loves and lives of several locals in the community to each of whom the event carries a different meaning. For Linda – about to be made redundant by her secret lover (that’s how bad the ‘80s were) – it represents escape and aspiration. Inspired by the impending crescendo of Diana walking down the aisle she decides to run away with her beau which in turn demands leaving her partner and daughter behind. However, not everything goes to plan as the nation’s spectacle unfolds.

A common problem with dramas set in a specific historical period is how often characters appear to benefit from the hindsight of the writers who render their fictional creations strangely prophetic. Quoting Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ Linda sings the lyrics: “Love’s illusions I recall/ I really don’t know love at all?. On the one hand it makes dramatic sense that the image of a fairytale wedding should cause Linda to reflect on her less-than-perfect marriage but the acceleration of her big decision seems forced to coincide with the proceedings taking place in London ultimately acting as precursor to Diana’s own marital breakdown. In the words of Linda’s daughter Tammy “There’s no such thing as the one is there?? This begins to hamper the drama when Diana and Charles seal their wedding vows with a kiss setting in motion a chain of events that will alter Linda’s life, and those around her, forever.

The production values are impressive – the dulled palette and grain acurately reflects the mood of the era, succeeding in convincing the audience of its temporal setting without distracting from the action and there are fine performances throughout.

The biggest hindrance of The Royal Wedding is its timescale. Condensing a series of revelations into such a compact narrative space inevitably leads to improbable character motivation and plot contrivances that detract from the emotional punches it attempts to deliver, merely grazing the audience in the process. Whilst there is enough decent acting and dialogue to maintain one’s interest, the drama fails to reach a satisfying conclusion which will leave many feeling little empathy for anyone involved.