Theatre review: The King’s SpeechPosted on: 25 May 2012 by Agatha Cheng
Laurence Green reviews the stage version of The King's Speech.
A successful film does not necessarily repeat this success in the theatre but David Seidler’s script for The King’s Speech was a stage play before it became an Oscar-winning screen hit and Adrian Noble’s handsome production of the original play which has transferred from the Yvoone Arnund Theatre in Guildford to the Wyndhams Theatre in the West End is every bit as good, if not better, than the much landed movie.
When King Edward VII abdicates the throne for the love of American divorcee’ Wallis Simpson, his terrified younger brother Bertie is thrust into the spotlight and crowned King George VI.
In a room at 146 Harley Street, Bertie and his wife Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother) meet Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. Breaking all royal protocol, the reluctant King and the maverick Logue embark together on a remarkable journey to correct the King’s debilitating stammer and help him deliver the radio address that will inspire his country on the brink of World War II.
This is an absorbing, fast paced production with a strong sense of time and place which combines well-judged humour with poignancy and depth and skilfully balances the play’s human scale with an almost Gothic sense of the epic iconographly of royal power. Furthermore the conflict between a man and a king which lies at the heart of the play is well conveyed and the use of archive film – most striking in the scenes of the vast crowds at the funeral of King George V – adds much to the feeling of authenticity.
Director Adrian Noble draws two superb central performances from Charles Edwards as Bertie, ill-equipped for public life when thrown into a position of responsibility and striving at all costs to overcome his stammer, and Jonathan Hyde as the humble, raffishly irreverent Lionel Logue who initially had settled in London to become a Shakespearean actor but had gravitated into speech therapy. Equally praiseworthy are Joss Ackland as a rather tyrannical George V, Daniel Betts as the bullying, Nazi sympathising Edward VIII, Emma Fielding as a regal future Queen Elizabeth and Charlotte Randle as the homesick but devoted wife of Logue.
If you thought the stage version of The King’s Speech would merely be a rerun of the film, then think again. This is a production which impresses in its own right and deserves to be just as big a hit as the movie.
Runs until July 21
Box office: 0844 482 5120
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