Brief Encounter With ... King's Speech star Charles EdwardsDate: 26 March 2012
Charles Edwards plays King George VI in the premiere production of David Seidler’s The King's Speech, which opens at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre this week (27 March 2012, previews from 22 March).
As has already been well-documented, the play became an Oscar-winning film starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush after director Tom Hooper's parents saw a read-through at the Pleasance Theatre and passed the script on to their son.
The stage premiere is directed by former RSC artistic director Adrian Noble and also stars Jonathan Hyde as Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, Emma Fielding as Queen Elizabeth, Joss Ackland as George V and Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill.
Edwards played the lead role of Richard Hannay in the Olivier Award winning West End production of The 39 Steps and later on Broadway. He most recently appeared as Benedick, opposite Eve Best, in the Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare's Globe and in Peter Hall's production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre.
What were your first thoughts when you got the role of George VI?
What are the main differences between the play and the film?
“How did you approach the role?
The stammer is something that I took very seriously. A lot of the blurb about The King’s Speech is generally about George VI ‘overcoming’ his stammer. But you never overcome a stammer, you learn to manage it. I think that’s a very important point to make and I know it’s a point that the British Stammering Association are keen to make, too. David Seidler has a stammer; he’s very open about it, it’s not something he hides, but he manages it extremely well. You wouldn’t know it to meet him. It’s about understanding how a stammerer manages. It’s about negotiating your way through a sentence - changing a ‘P’ at the beginning of a word to a ‘C’ - just to avoid the little pitfalls.
I met with a wonderful lady called Annie Morrison, who’s a voice teacher at the Central School and was a speech therapist for stammerers. I had two sessions with her, learning about the technicality and physicality of the stammer and what can accompany it. And we’ve also drawn on footage of the man himself, George VI, and you do see he has terrible trouble. In rehearsal we had a both an edited and an unedited version of a speech he made. In the edited version they used cut-away shots of people listening to cover the gaps. But in the unedited version you see his struggle and it’s heartbreaking to watch.
How big an influence was Colin Firth’s interpretation?
Is it at all daunting to be coming to the West End?
Charles Edwards & Jonathan Hyde in The King's Speech (photo: Francis Loney)
I’m thrilled with the theatre, I think Wyndham’s perfect. It’s sort of a chamber piece, this play. The cast is small and I think it needs an intimate theatre like Wyndham’s; I couldn’t be happier with that result. I’m keen for as many people to see it as possible. I want people to come and be pleasantly surprised at the additional content and to enjoy it as much as they have been on tour. The reaction has been more than we could have hoped for. The cheering and people standing up - it’s very exciting and rewarding to please people in that way. So, no, I’m not daunted but I’m very excited.
Are you expecting a royal visit?
Do you agree with commenters who say the West End has become more conservative in the recession?
What’s next for you?
- Charles Edwards was speaking to Theo Bosanquet