Theatre review: The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre
- Credit: Archant
Helen Mirren reunited with The Queen writer Peter Morgan as she reprises Elizabeth II role
In 60 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II has been served by 12 prime ministers, two more than Queen Victoria and second only to George III who had 14.
Upon ascending the throne in 1953, the Queen, unlike every other monarch before her, committed to weekly meetings with her prime minister which have continued to this day.
The Audience, written by Peter Morgan, is a fascinating and highly amusing look at the audiences shared by Her Majesty and the various Conservative and Labour leaders that have come and gone over the last seven decades.
Leading a stellar cast is Dame Helen Mirren, reunited with Morgan whose script for 2006 film The Queen bagged Mirren her first best actress Oscar. Here she reprises the role of Elizabeth II with stunning accuracy.
As no detail of the audiences between the Queen and her prime ministers has ever been made public, these are merely imagined portrayals.
Mirren is onstage throughout and tasked with a series of swift costume changes as she morphs between eras - from a twenty-something alongside Churchill to today’s octogenarian figure.
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The play adheres to no chronology, beginning with a bumbling John Major riddled with self-doubt and followed by an inaugural audience with Churchill, played by Edward Fox.
There are rib-tickling moments throughout and one particularly memorable jibe enjoyed at the expense of Tony Blair, not featured in the play.
The steady interchange of prime ministers is broken up by slightly incongruous patches of dialogue between the Queen and her 11-year-old self, played by a child actress.
But all in all, this is a fine piece of theatre with Helen Mirren delivering an outstanding performance.
Quite how accurate Peter Morgan’s portrayal of the Queen’s 60-year relationship with Britain’s prime ministers is will likely never be known. But while we’re in the game of guessing, it won’t get much more entertaining than this.
* The Audience is at the Gielgud Theatre until June 15