Saturday, 7 April 2012

Theatre review: The King's Speech

David Seidler tried to hawk his play The King's Speech to theatre producers but attracted the attention of a film producer instead. People more up-to-date than I on news of magic lantern shows, inform me the ensuing film did "quite well," so now the original play finally gets its chance on stage; and a West End stage at that, with a strong cast. King George V (Joss "DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY" Ackland) is nearing the end of his life, and not too thrilled about the succession. David, the future Edward VIII (Daniel Betts) is a bit of a raving Nazi and, much more importantly by the ruling classes' standards, shagging an American. Everyone except David himself seems to see the abdication crisis coming, but the trouble is the next in line is Bertie (Charles Edwards,) whose severe stammer doesn't make him the ideal person to make reassuring speeches to the nation as WWII approaches.

I haven't seen the film version although I now feel as if I have, it's clear why the script took its unusual route. Adrian Noble's production certainly feels like a movie, and a rather formulaic one at that. Bertie is paired with Lionel Logue (Jonathan Hyde,) the Australian speech therapist and thwarted actor who helps him deal with his speech defect, mainly by delving into the psychological hangups behind it, caused by his father and brother's oppressive bullying, and everyone's subsequent expectation that the spare prince wouldn't amount to much. Initially unable to find much in common, the two of course end up great friends, and Edwards and Hyde's relationship helps at least make the inevitability of the storyline entertaining to watch.

The hype around the film is probably what has helped bring such a strong cast in to play the supporting roles as well, with Charlotte Randle as Lionel's depressed wife, while Winston Churchill is of course played by Ian McNeice, as is now required by law. Michael Feast as Archbishop Cosmo Lang seems to realise about halfway through that he's basically there to be the panto villain, and gets camper as the play goes on. And after a promising start where she's the one to find and hire Lionel, Emma Fielding is wasted as Queen Elizabeth gets sidelined, her best moment when she has to awkwardly attempt to socialise with Randle's Myrtle. And as Jim, in his first go as "the person I drag along with me to these things," said, from everything we know about the Queen Mother it's hard to believe she would have sat back and played so little part in her husband's attempts to solve his problem.

Anthony Ward's literally picture-frame set features a double revolve which helps Noble's production zip along at a fair pace, and it's a perfectly entertaining couple of hours. But it's clear that the central cast are a lot better than the play itself deserves, and they're the ones giving it what power it has.

The King's Speech by David Seidler is booking until the 21st of July at Wyndhams Theatre.

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including interval.

No comments:

Post a Comment