Monday, June 03, 2013

Theatre Review: The Audience

Who is the Queen?

Arguably the most well known person on the planet is at the same time one also of the least well known. For despite the fact that she's been on the throne over sixty years, for all that time she's managed to keep her true self free from the world gaze, protected as if by the walls of her many castles and palaces.

And it is the Queen that is the subject of the play currently on at the Gielgud Theatre, London, and in particular the weekly audiences (foreign travel permitting) by the current prime minister.

These meetings of just 20 minutes (which doesn't seem that much) are meant to be the mechanism by which the sovereign is kept informed as to the state of her nation, but nothing is really known. Like so much involving her no notes, no minutes, no record, no mention is allowed.

The first rule of The Audience is you don't talk about The Audience.

But that hasn't stopped writer Peter Morgan from imagining what it might be like.

She has seen ten prime ministers come and go, from Churchill to Cameron, and all but two were represented in the play. It's not a historical, linear description of British history, but rather like a memory - the Queen's of course - all jumbled up complete with her eleven year old self and corgies.

And the picture they paint is made up of nine men and one very memorable woman who come for many reasons and get varying receptions but always support.

It was the Queen as the ultimate therapist for those in highest office, who come to her popping pills as the stress gets to them or in the case of John Major, welling up with tears. And they find someone who does know how they feel, who has seen it before and who they can be truly sure will not go to the papers.

Helen Mirren plays the role just as magnificently as you'd expect, following up her portrayal in the film The Queen.

Entertaining but, with a whistle stop tour of the last fifty years of British history, also informative, it was a truly memorable evening.

Photo from: here

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