Not having seen the film gave this reviewer an opportunity to see what the fuss was all about, but this show is a stand-alone classic and West-End gold.
From the opening scene, where the lead appears naked, the actors draw you in to the story that made Colin Firth an Oscar winner, and like the film, this should be pulling in awards.
This is the most interestingly staged production that we have seen in a long while, with clear notes being taken from stage versions of The Woman in Black. A moving circular stage separated by a portrait framed partition, allow ghostly portrayals to be included, ever reminding ‘Bertie’ (Albert, soon-to-be King George VI) and the audience, of the people that will be watching his speeches and expecting greatness. The death of King George V included the actual footage of the funeral projected onto the stage partition, with the characters of Churchill, Cosmo Lang and Stanley Baldwin discussing what to do next at his apparent graveside.
Overall, this play was amazing. The variety of talent on display was extraordinary, the staging was insightful and modern (but without detracting from the acting), and the sound effects were applied beautifully and appropriately.
Not one actor can be picked out as being particularly better, as the ensemble cast were amazing and worked brilliantly together, but of note were Ian McNeice’s portrayal of Winston Churchill – as captivating in person as it is on Doctor Who; ‘Bertie’, played by Charles Edwards, received a well-deserved special commendation from a member of the British Stammering Association; and, Emma Fielding and Charlotte Randle, who played Queen Elizabeth and Myrtle Logue respectively, embodied their characters unique charms beautifully. The star of this, who is clearly Jonathan Hyde playing Lionel Logue, was enthusiastic, brilliant, and it was fantastic to see him in a comedic leading role for a change (as opposed to a wise-cracking Butler, he got an actual stab at hilarity, and pulled it off marvellously).
As Sherrie Hewson said in the Q and A after the performance, it was brilliant to see the international political situation that arose from the situation – something that is apparently down-played in the film, which we have already reviewed.
Never really wanting to see the film, this has been a real eye-opener to a period of Britain’s past where an individual changed the course of human history – a subject that isn’t covered nearly enough in the classroom teachings of the time.
If you have seen the film, you will know the plot, so go watch the version that was taken directly from Logue’s diaries. If not, this will inspire you to research it more, and maybe even watch the film.
The King’s Speech is playing at Wyndham Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0DA until 12 May. Ticket prices start at £17.50 and to book tickets ring 0844 482 5120 or book online