Preview: Dido, Queen of Carthage, Kensington Palace, London

Love betrayed in Diana's old home
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The Independent Culture

A royal lady rages through the halls of Kensington Palace, distraught that her man, who had promised to forsake all others, is untrue. At least, that's what Sarah Thom is rehearsing – she will do it several times a week, from 1 February.

Thom and Rebecca McCutcheon, the artistic directors of Angels in the Architecture, had no idea when they planned their production of Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage that their choice would be so topical. Since rehearsals started, the inquest on Diana, Princess of Wales has not been out of the papers.

The production is the first time a play will be performed in the royal home. The audience will be taken, promenade style, through the great state apartments, where the Privy Council met and where Queen Victoria slept, past old masters and empire bedroom furniture. It's also a rare outing for Marlowe's tragedy, which was published in 1594 but may have been written 10 years earlier, when he was a student at Cambridge.

"When we first looked into staging Dido," says McCutcheon, "we couldn't find a record of a professional production for the past 400 years." Since then, Tim Carroll put it on at the Globe in 2003, but the tricksy version cloaked Marlowe's luscious rhetoric. The enraptured queen says of her lover, Aeneas, who has landed in Carthage, "His glittering eyes shall be my looking glass,/ His lips an altar, where I'll offer up/ As many kisses as the sea hath sands." Thom says the play may have been a "warning of what might happen if Elizabeth I fell in love".

Angels in the Architecture was formed to exploit the dramatic potential of old buildings and to stage neglected classics. Last year, it presented Dido in the House of St Barnabas in Soho, but the production has been reworked to use the associations of Kensington Palace, both as monument and as haunted museum, to blur the distinctions between myth, history, and reality.

1 to 23 February (buy tickets from or at Kensington Palace)