Words such as mesmerising, spellbinding and riveting are simply not good enough, when even a five star review falls short in awarding enough praise. Simply, The King’s Speech is theatre at its finest.
Obviously best known as a smash hit Oscar winning film, The King’s Speech was conceived as a play originally and now it rightly has the opportunity to make a number one theatre tour, ironically in the Queens Diamond Jubilee year. David Seidler’s play covers the same ground as the film, with a stammering, soon to be King George VI, trying to cope by employing a self-styled Australian speech therapist. However, the relationship between Logue and his wife (Charlotte Randle) is explored in more detail than the film, as too is Logue’s failed acting career. Both of these aspects give an extra depth to the character, thereby giving a dimension lost in the film version.
We join the King in waiting (Charles Edwards) on his torturous journey, feeling his pain when having to make public addresses until his wife (who becomes our late Queen Mother) (Emma Fielding) employs Lionel Logue (Jonathan Hyde) to assist. At first the relationship is very frosty, but soon a mutual trust builds and when “Bertie” has no option but to become King. Logue stands firmly at his side, despite the establishments reservations, ensuring the world knows the new monarch has a voice. The sparing between Edwards and Hyde is the lynch pin of the whole production and the chemistry between them is electric.
Both Joss Ackland, as King George V, and Lisa Baird as Wallis Simpson, make a lasting impression, despite only appearing briefly, While Michael Feast brilliantly makes his mark as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Beautifully designed by Anthony Ward, the set incorporates a large revolving stage, which holds a gigantic frame in the middle. The frame acts as a mirror, projection screen and often becomes totally translucent and is as much part of the play as the actors.
Adrian Noble has directed a production that must not only be headed for the West End and beyond, but has to collect a host of awards as well. As productions of this quality do not come along too often, it should not be missed on any account.