Year: 1947

Location: Theatre Royal Haymarket

Part: Stanislas

Review: "Indeed, Cocteau`s The Eagle Has Two Heads, in which Donald played the lover-assassin of Eileen Herlie`s Ruritanian Queen, was a test of everybody`s patience, but James, a good listener, knew how to share the romantic limelight tactfully."

Ronald Duncan`s adaptation of Jean Cocteau`s play does full justice to the lyric quality of a romantic Ruritanian tale. The atmosphere of love and intrigue in high places is conveyed with intensity and suspense and Murray MacDonald has directed the play with real insight. 

STORY: Alone in her bedroom in her castle at Kranz, the Queen keeps tryst with the memory of her husband assassinated on their wedding day ten years before.

The Queen`s long soliloquoy in the imagined presence of her King, and to the accompaniment of a terrible thunderstorm, is first interrupted by shots from the ground and then by the appearence of a young peasant who staggers wounded through the window. So great is his likeness to her dead husband that for the moment the Queen thinks he is an apparition. 
The young man refuses to speak, though the Queen now guesses that he is the poet agitator who has been detailed to assassinate her by a hostile political group. Edith, suspicious that something unusual is happening comes to the Queen and is severely rebuked. Stanislas, the intruder, is hidden from view. 
Stanislas, who has maintained complete silence, finally faints from loss of blood, and the Queen orders here deaf-mute servant to remove him from her room. The next morning the Queen is at target practice in her libary when Stanislas appears. 
It is obvious that her interest in the young man is growing and that he is bewildered by the trend of events. He discovers that she already knows by heart a scurrilous poem which he had written and circulated and which was aimed at discrediting her character and regime.
There now begins a new relationship between the Queen who would welcome death and the young man who would have killed her but now finds himself falling in love. Stanislas declares his love for the Queen, but they realise that they are trapped and that the future is hopeless. The net closes around the young poet: Edith is intriguing with the Baron to bring about his death. The Baron cross-examines Stanislas. Inspired by her new found love for the young peasant and by his high ideal of her duty as ruler of her people, the Queen makes one last bid to outwit the Baron and to regain her popularity by abandoning her role of recluse, and taking over the reins of government once more.
The closing moments of the play.
Stanislas realising that he will be a stumbling block takes poison. Before he dies the Queen, pretending that she did not love him at all, but was only playing with his affections, incites him to kill her. Before she dies she staggers to the window to show herself to the people.

source: TheatreWorld May 1947