Kensington Palace is currently undergoing a £12 million renovation project aimed at improving accessibililty and scheduled for completion in 2012. During this period many of the regular attractions have been closed or removed to storage but some sections of the palace will remain open, hosting temporary exhibitions. The Enchanted Palace is the first of these; housed in the State Apartments, it presents the stories of some of the princesses who spent time at Kensington Palace in a multimedia format incorporating unique fashion designs by leading contemporary couturiers that each relate to the life of a particular princess.
The concept for this show seemed promising: a combination of site-specific installations, with multimedia presentations and the opportunity to interact with actors who would explain their role in the various stories. However, the execution lacked precision and the depth of information to make for an inspiring and memorable experience.
The installations by the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Stephen Jones and William Tempest needed more explanation about the stories that inspired them and we only caught fleeting glimpses of actors whose characters and purpose were unidentifiable. It was possible to find out more about the history of the rooms from the regular guides who were generally surrounded by a huddle of eager visitors, as they provided the only opportunity to learn about the history of this fine palace.
There was a level of spectacle in some of the rooms that didn’t disappoint – particularly William Tempest’s dress made from 1000 origami birds and nicely detailed mobile sculptures by Boudicca, but the contextual relevance of the works seemed weak without a detailed explanation. The introduction promised that the installations would ‘unleash powerful and secret stories about the lives of Kensington’s princesses,’ but a good guidebook would help to unearth more ‘secrets’ and the mix of history and haute couture didn’t quite cut it.