Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Audience (Gielgud Theatre) - all hail Queen Mirren!

The Audience play review London Gielgud Theatre

The Audience
Till 15 June 2013
Address: Gielgud Theatre
Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 6AR
Phone: 0844 482 5130 (24hrs)
Nearest Tube station:
Piccadilly Circus
Leicester Square
Her "dirty dozen", she calls them. The first scene sees her having an audience with John Major (Paul Ritter) her ninth Prime Minister. Totally unlike her public demeanour, the session between the Queen and Major is surprising candid with the latter pouring out his heart to Her Majesty. The setting would not have looked out of place in a psychiatrist's office when the Queen discreetly offers her PM a napkin when he lamented that he has only 3 O-levels and feels totally out of his league with his peers. The Queen consoles him by saying that she, in turn, has none.

The weekly audiences between the Queen and her PM stem from her right to be consulted, right to advise and warn. The sessions are not carved into the Constitution, but rather as a courtesy extended by the PM to the Queen.

These sessions are held with no one else present and no minutes were taken. Peter Gordon could only imagined the relationships between the Queen and her Prime Ministers from Churchill (Edward Fox) in the fifties to Cameron (Rufus Wright) in the present day. He indulges us in our natural curiosity of being a fly on the wall when the most powerful men meet the most influential woman in Britain.

No one would know what actually transpired during those meetings other than the two present. But what really matters is that Morgan made the characters entirely believable. It turns out that they are fallible - from the almighty Churchill (who had ran low on the nation's goodwill to the fiery Thatcher (Haydn Gwynne) and Cameron who almost seems lightweight in comparison.

The star in the how is no doubt Helen Mirren who triumphs again at the reprise of the role of the Queen. She appears on the stage at almost every scene and switches effortlessly from a confident woman to an unsure young regent and back again with a few clever costume changes, play of lights and subtle changes in voice tones, all without stepping off the stage.

Other than displaying her witty yet disarming charm during her audiences, her loneliness and despair being the head of the Monarchy was equally apparent. You could certainly feel her anguish when Major suggested that she decommission Britannia.

Look no further for a show that epitomises the bedrock of Britain. If you were to catch only one show this year, let it be The Audience.

The Audience is on a limited run at Gielgud Theatre till 15 June 2013. Stall seats have all but ran out. The seats at Grand Circle are inclined at a rather steep angle and the safety railing is a real bother. There are a few of those left. Your best bet would be Dress Circle seats, which afford a decent view. There is only a handful left so grab them fast. Book your tickets from The Audience Official Website.

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