Over the years, several women have emerged claiming to be the royal Russian and Marcelle Maurette’s 1950’s play (here adapted and directed by Kate Sellers) is the fictional account of one such attempt to convince that the duchess had indeed survived – and to profit from her reappearance.
From the start, it’s made clear that the woman is an imposter, a sickly specimen dragged from the gutter by a syndicate of Russian émigrés in late 1920’s Berlin with a plan to lay their hands on £30M deposited for her in a London bank.
Under the tutelage of their self-appointed leader, Bounin, she’s transformed, Pygmalion fashion, from tubercular wretch to poised, enigmatic young woman, and presented for inspection to those who knew the real Anastasia.
Yet as she confronts them, elements of doubt creep in – even her grandmother (a fine, poignant performance from Eileen Nicholas) finds her incredulity challenged by the intimate knowledge she displays.
The acting is rather varied (and, latterly, DNA has provided evidence of Anastasia’s true fate) but Pushkin House makes an appropriate setting for this intriguing story which cleverly contrives to keep you guessing right to the end.
Pushkin House, Bloomsbury Square, WC1A 2TA
Until April 21
– Louise Kingsley