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The Audience

March 11, 2013

Dame Helen Mirren playing our Queen on stage in the West End. An elderly American couple said it all behind me as we streamed out of Saturday’s sold out matinee at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. He said, “I am pleased they gave her a standing ovation at the end. I was worried that she was not appreciated when she came on stage.” She replied “That is the British. They don’t clap for turning up. They sit and think – SHOW ME”. Well Dame Helen Mirren certainly showed us. Her performance is regal. She has captured the very essence of our Queen.

Peter Morgan’s new play “The Audience” puts us inside the private weekly audiences of Her Majesty with her Prime Ministers over the last sixty years. I was mesmerised by every single encounter as a story forms from the relationships between the Prime Ministers and the Queen and from the relationship of the Queen with herself. This is cleverly enacted with a dialogue between the Queen and the young Princess Lillibet.

Edward Fox as a Grandfatherly Churchill, Michael Elwyn a sophisticated yet arrogant Old Colonial Anthony Eden, Haydn Gwynne as a monstrous Margaret Thatcher, Paul Ritter as verging on pathetic John Major, Rufus Wright as a vacuous David Cameron and Nathaniel Parker as a well meaning but manic Gordon Brown all seem to be totally obsessed with themselves. Only Richard McCabe as the kind and very intelligent common man Harold Wilson seems like his Monarch to have the interests of others at heart. We are led to believe that Harold Wilson was her favourite. Richard McCabe for me gives the best performance as a Prime Minister too although he has by far the best written part.

Stephen Daldry has created a theatrical masterpiece of character with an imaginative changing of time in front of our eyes, transforming the Queen from young Princess to elderly Grandmother and back, with inventive bold yet simple staging and almost invisible on stage costume and wig changes. The wonderful Geoffrey Beevers as the Equerry ties everything together seamlessly with his personal addresses to us – the audience.

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