Directed by Adrian Noble
Pros: Flawless performances, clever set and great script. Will keep you riveted from start to finish.
Cons: Sticks too closely to the film version.
Our Verdict: A production destined for success, overall an excellent piece of theatre. Not to be missed.
The film of The King’s Speech was one of 2010’s most successful movies, drawing widespread critical acclaim and no less than twelve Academy Award nominations, four of which it won. The author of the screenplay, David Seidler, originally started working on the project in the early 1980s, but at the request of the Queen Mother postponed his work until after her death. By then, he had decided to re-write the screenplay for the stage. In the end the film was made first, but it is hardly surprising that, given the success of the screen version, the opportunity to stage the play was seized so quickly. So how does this theatrical version of the box office hit fare in its West End incarnation?
A important element to point out, first and foremost, is that this production actively draws on the film’s success to sell itself. The show’s logo is almost identical to the movie’s, and the website unashamedly touts the production as ‘the original play that started it all’. One cannot blame the show’s producers for using such an obvious resource to guarantee a sellout run, but before the curtain goes up, it could be easy to think that ultimately, this production is a cash grab. Within minutes of the start of the play, however, such fears are alleviated. The reason? Quite simply, the audience is presented with an excellent piece of theatre.
The first people to congratulate are the cast. The lead roles have some fairly big shoes to fill, and they take on the challenge with gusto. There is not a single weak performance in the show, and the audience remain gripped from start to finish. Charles Edwards and Jonathan Hyde deliver outstanding performances as George VI and Lionel Logue. At times funny and playful, and at times serious and emotional, the duo truly capture the essence and subtlety of the script. In addition, they are backed up by a talented supporting cast, with special mentions to Ian McNeice as Churchill and Joss Ackland as George V.
The strong performances are staged on a simple but effective and aesthetically pleasing set, which consists of a huge framed curtain of gauze on a revolving platform. Using the lighting to make the gauze see-through or opaque, the depth of space is carefully controlled to create intimate rooms or open spaces, and the action seamlessly slips between locations. This design is the work of the talented Anthony Ward, who was also behind the designs of ENRON and the current production of Sweeney Todd
In fact, the only real criticism that can be made of this production is that it follows the film too closely, and doesn’t quite make itself unique. In this sense, ironically, the factor which pretty much guarantees this show a sellout run is also the factor which will draw the most criticism. One might argue that if it had been staged before the film, it would have been even more loudly praised. Still, judging by the standing ovation at the end of the performance, this is a production which will do very, very well.
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The King’s Speech runs at the Wyndham’s Theatre and is currently booking until 21st July 2012.
Box Office: 0844 482 5120 or book online at https://tickets.delfont-mackintosh.com/index.asp?ShoID=906&profile=IN5&Promo=X65