Longing for Grace Hill Street Solo Theatre

It’s funny, but whilst watching this show – which was written and performed by the charming actress Grace Kiley – I was reminded of the time when the late Grace Kelly (also know as Her Serene Highness Princess Grace Of Monaco) made her own debut at the Edinburgh Festival.

This fairly momentous event occurred a little over thirty years ago, when she gave a poetry reading in Scotland’s capitol, one of the rare occasions that she made some form of a return to the stage.

This anecdote was one that was brought up by Ms Kiley during the telling of Grace Kelly’s story, one that was filled to the brim with tremendous ostentation, wealth, passion and ambition. However, it was also a story full of heartbreak, pain and inner turmoil that would end tragically on a steep, winding road in Monaco.

Grace Kiley brings her momentarily back to life in this touchingly moving story of a young woman who appeared to have it all – but at a price. Grace Kelly was the Hollywood Princess who made her name during the first half of the fifties, in which her cool, blonde, classy, patrician beauty and talent made her a star of the first magnitude.
Although it is fair to say that she had a certain advantage in achieving her ambitions, coming as she did from an extremely wealthy and affluent blue-blooded background in Philadelphia.

Often at odds with her strict Catholic parents, she was determined to strike out on her own as an actress, and make a real success of her life.

Ms Kiley certainly shows a great deal of sympathy and empathy with the Hollywood star, as she paints an often pained and tear-stained impression that real lasting happiness regularly eluded her.

A run of highly popular films (including her 3 with Alfred Hitchcock: “Rear Window”, “Dial M For Murder” & “To Catch A Thief”) an Oscar for “The Country Girl” and a string of unsuitable liaisons with many of her (older) leading men that earned the disapproval of her mother made her one of the most glamorous and popular movie stars in the world. Then came her fairytale romance and marriage to genuine European aristocracy, as she wed Prince Rainier of Monaco, an event that captured the world’s attention.

However, despite the majority of observers expecting a true happy ending to this story, the reality was much more downbeat. The eventual truth behind her marriage shattered the illusion. And it was with this section of the play that Ms Kiley’s strengths as a performer came to the fore. With endless frustration, and a sense that her life was being controlled, this independent free spirited woman would find herself trapped in a gilded cage, as she railed with impotent rage against her privileged position. Hoping that one day she could make her return to Hollywood and her first love acting, this almost happened when Hitchcock tempted her with a film role in 1964 (the title role of “Marnie”), only to have it dashed by regal inflexibility.

Grace Kiley brings to the role an early joyous love of life that the actress embodied, only to have it drained from her, and replaced by a brittle acceptance of her duty bound confinement within the life she finally could not escape.

Lawrence Lettice