The King’s Speech Originally a play before being translated onto screen in the Oscar winning film, David Seidler’s production is now fresh off a short regional tour, and gracing the stage at Wyndham’s Theatre.
The play gives a rather honest exposé of the private emotional struggle of the Duke of York, later to be King George VI, known affectionately to his family as Bertie. After his brother abdicates, it falls to Bertie to inspire and bring hope to a nation coming to terms with the new Nazi threat. A monumental task in itself, but having been troubled with a speech impediment since childhood, this becomes somewhat of a burden which must be overcome. Lionel Logue, an Australian Speech therapist, employs the use of unconventional methods in his attempt to help Bertie conquer these difficulties.
With the film only released in early 2011, it would be hard not to compare the two productions, especially given that a lot of the dialogue and the jokes are the same. Although, having said that, there are some notable differences. In the film, more screen time is given to Bertie’s relationship with his wife and children, although the latter are not present in the play. Instead, there is a greater emphasis on exploring Logue’s relationship with his wife, Myrtle, and their marital difficulties as she longs to return to Australia, conflicting with his duty to the King. There is also less focus on the technical aspects of Logue’s methods in the play. I particularly like the way in which Myrtle is introduced to her husband’s client, which sees her walking in on the King lying on the floor, with Her Majesty perched on his stomach, rising up and down in time with his breathing. I found this to be quite a clever (not to mention very funny) way of combining the two scenes from the film, and it translates well to the stage.
The stage set is exceedingly simple and sparse on props. There is one large piece of scenery in the centre of the stage: a giant screen (resembling a huge, square picture frame) set upon a revolving stage which serves to separate rooms and scenes. I feel they may have overused the revolve slightly in the second act, as there is one part where the actors look as though they are chasing each other round the set, which is somewhat distracting. Otherwise, it is a very clever design that works well, especially to separate Logue’s reception area with his ‘office’, allowing the audience to view both at the same time. The use of projections and sound recordings also adds a sense of history to the production, a nice touch.
The King’s Speech boasts a very strong cast. Charles Edwards, following on from Colin Firth as King George VI, has an extremely intense role to play but does it in such a way which is completely captivating to the audience. After learning the script in just one month, he gives a splendid performance portraying a fragile, sensitive man, haunted by the bullying and emotional hurt caused by his childhood nanny.
Jonathan Hyde as Lionel Logue, as previously mentioned, has a much bigger role than his counterpart in the film and portrays a very dry but humorous character, with a charming disregard for protocol. The play highlights his failed Shakespearean acting career much more so than the film and the fact that he needs Bertie, just as much as the King needs him.
I must also briefly mention Ian McNeice, who is fabulous as Winston Churchill, as many of us will have seen him in the role before, albeit not in The King’s Speech. He fits the bill with ease, looking and acting every inch the wartime Prime Minister.
The King’s Speech is an enthralling and very absorbing play, with an honest and witty script, and all being well, will run for 16 weeks. Despite my niggles, I highly recommend it and urge everyone to see it while they can.
Review by Holly who you can follow on Twitter @amosquitobite
Booking Until: Saturday, 21 July 2012
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 2.30pm
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Charing Cross Rd
Content updated 17th October 2014