A round-up of reviews of The Audience starring Helen Mirren at the Gielgud Theatre.
Helen Mirren follows her acclaimed on-screen performance as Elizabeth II in a new play by The Queen writer Peter Morgan, charting the 60 years of weekly audiences the Queen has granted her Prime Ministers.
Award-winning director Stephen Daldry directs Mirren and an all star cast of British Prime Ministers through the ages including Michael Elwyn as Anthony Eden, Haydn Gwynne as Margaret Thatcher, Edward Fox as Winston Churchill, Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson, Nathaniel Parker as Gordon Brown, Paul Ritter as John Major and Rufus Wright as David Cameron. The Equerry is Geoffrey Beevers and the role of Young Elizabeth will be played by Bebe Cave, Maya Gerber and Nell Williams.
Read reviews of The Audience, below, from the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Evening Standard and more.
Average rating score for this production:
"What a great if faintly guilty pleasure this play proves. In times past, the dramatist Peter Morgan would have been locked up in the tower for such impudent lese-majesty, and might have counted himself lucky to have kept his head on his shoulders. But as he showed in his screenplay for The Queen about the crisis that engulfed the Royal Family following the death of Princess Diana, Morgan admires his monarch. And in this marvellous piece, with Helen Mirren once again giving a magnificent performance as the Queen, he penetrates at least some her mystery, with compassion, grace, affection and humour."
"...Mirren also captures the Queen's mix of the extraordinary and the ordinary. Like HMQ in Alan Bennett's A Question of Attribution, she has the capacity to see through all forms of pretence. And, in her dialogues with her younger self, she conveys the sense of entrapment and loneliness that co-exists with a life of royal privilege. I have a theory that all plays about monarchy, from Shakespeare's Henry V to Howard Brenton's 55 Days, end up as studies of solitude. That's exactly what happens here. But if Morgan's speculative and essentially static high-class political gossip – what you might call Pepys behind the scenes – acquires emotional resonance, it is largely thanks to the naturally majestic Mirren."
"Haydn Gwynne brings steely forcefulness to Margaret Thatcher. We’re also treated to a paranoid Gordon Brown (Nathaniel Parker), Paul Ritter’s blundering John Major, and a sickly Churchill from Edward Fox, who stepped in at short notice after Robert Hardy cracked his ribs in a fall. Of greatest interest is Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson. Somewhat questionably, Morgan pictures Wilson as a buffoonish figure, adept at wacky impersonations and lacking any academic gravitas. McCabe makes this amusing and – as Wilson’s mind deteriorates – affecting."
"The theatrical experience is sharpened and empowered with little vignettes in which Mirren communes sympathetically with her younger self (a shared role portrayed beautifully on the night I saw the show by Bebe Cave) about the magnitude of the job that awaits her. As with the audiences themselves (confidential, advisory, safe), there is a strong sense of the dynamics of therapy here, leading to some beautiful moments when the Queen reflects on her life - is she, she wonders, a “postage stamp with a pulse”? The set is beautiful. The palace meeting room is exquisitely recreated, as is the drawing room of Balmoral in a scene where McCabe’s Wilson (supposedly a pipe smoker) puffs on his cigars. And we even get a surprise appearance from a pair of corgis. It’s all hugely enjoyable - just don’t believe everything you hear."
"Directed with restrained flair by Stephen Daldry, and designed with a voyeuristic elegance by Bob Crowley, “The Audience” seems destined to reign in the West End as an exercise in reassurance for uncertain times. It’s a sort of starched-bosomed nanny of a play, offering the artistic equivalent of nursery food and equally digestible history lessons. But let’s get one thing clear: As a work of speculative, fact-based fiction, “The Audience” isn’t a patch on “The Queen,” the excellent 2006 Stephen Frears film, with a screenplay by Mr. Morgan, for which Ms. Mirren won an Oscar playing the same role."
"The resulting vignettes are of variable quality but they add up to considerably more here than the sum of their parts. This is thanks to the thematically piercing idea of presenting the encounters non-chronologically – a format which is expressed with a haunting, magical malleability by Stephen Daldry's superlative (and beautifully designed) production. And the 67 year old Mirren rises to the daunting technical challenge with a quite uncannily fluid lightness of touch as she shifts back and forth on an age-spectrum of six decades. "
Date: 8 March 2013
Written by: WestEndTheatre
Tags: Bebe Cave, Edward Fox, Elizabeth II, Geoffrey Beevers, Gielgud Theatre, Haydn Gwynne, Helen Mirren, Maya Gerber, Michael Elwyn, Nathaniel Parker, Nell Williams, Paul Ritter, Peter Morgan, Reviews, Richard McCabe, Rufus Wright, Stephen Daldry, The Audience, the Queen