Review Round-up: Edwards shines in The King's SpeechDate: 30 March 2012
Hot on the heels of the Oscar-winning 2010 film, David Seidler’s original stage version of The King's Speech opened at Wyndham's Theatre this week (28 March 2012, previews from 22 March), with Charles Edwards in the starring role.
The play is based on the life of George VI, who is thrust onto the throne and forced to confront his debilitating stammer when his older brother chooses American divorcee Wallis Simpson over the throne. The unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Jonathan Hyde) helps ‘Bertie’ with his impediment, allowing the King to make that all-important wartime speech.
“Charles Edwards has a difficult job tackling the central role… but he pulls it off with aplomb … Edwards lends him a childlike sensitivity, showing him as a man who never fully recovered from the abuses of his nanny and whose wife Elizabeth (a perfectly cast Emma Fielding) acts as an almost matriarchal replacement. Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue has much more to do in the stage version, and Jonathan Hyde is equal to the challenge … Logue’s relationship with wife Myrtle (Charlotte Randle) is also more fully explored, though I’m not convinced her desire to return home provides quite the dramatic counterbalance Seidler intends. Elsewhere, Ian McNeice gives a suitably jowl-wobbling turn as Churchill, while the always-watchable Michael Feast makes for a slippery, pompous, almost pantomimic Archbishop of Canterbury … Adrian Noble’s production provides a fine first outing for this rags-to-riches playscript, which reveals Seidler as a writer who combines an historian’s eye for detail with a keen awareness of dramatic structure.”
“Ex-RSC boss Adrian Noble has mustered the acting aristocracy for this moving, slightly staid spin-off from the stately Oscar-winning movie. Joss Ackland gives a gruff, impressive cameo as the old King George V … Ian McNeice, too, contributes a tremendous jowly turn as the people's choice, Winston Churchill … As the shy, dutiful man nicknamed 'B-b-b-bertie' by his careless elder brother, Charles Edwards is outstanding … Edwards has been on the cusp of a major breakthrough for some time. Let's hope this richly appealing but MOR prequel to 'our finest hour' is a vehicle to the stardom he so richly deserves … Seidler's rewrite… brings a bigger breath of proletarian fresh air, underlining the difficulty that Bertie's Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue (played with unfailing warmth and sympathy by Jonathan Hyde) and his shopgirl wife Myrtle (the excellent Charlotte Randle) have in being accepted in frigid, suspicious pre-war Britain … Bertie – although glamorised by the throne – is portrayed as a sweetly sympathetic but deeply ordinary man, whose speech impediment is part of a very ordinary but devastating daily struggle … his victory is something that a broad crowd of people will happily cheer for.”
Charles Edwards & Jonathan Hyde in The King's Speech (photo: Francis Loney)
“At the heart of this stage version of the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech is a superb performance by Charles Edwards, a fine actor who deserves to be better known … Edwards perfectly conveys the agony of Bertie’s struggle to wrench words from within himself, as well as the restraint involved. And Jonathan Hyde is splendidly dry as Logue … There’s assured work around them, chiefly from Emma Fielding as Bertie’s pert wife Elizabeth. Some of the cameos, such as Michael Feast as the snooty archbishop of Canterbury, are rather broad. But there is no denying the laughs they get, and Adrian Noble’s sure-footed production combines well-judged humour with poignancy and a delight in patriotic ceremony. A strong sense of time and place derives from Anthony Ward’s ingenious design and Jon Driscoll’s projections. Less compelling is the use of echo in the most intimate scenes, which creates an air of portentousness. But even though I am not wholly convinced that a West End staging of The King’s Speech is something we urgently need, this is a slick, appealing package.”
“Fascinating to see the stage version of David Seidler’s The King’s Speech … In some ways it feels pared-back, distant, lacking the intimate close-ups and camera focuses on a twitched lip and a wrinkled royal nose. But to see the stammering, frustrated George VI before a live audience as he makes his closing speech to the people becomes a powerful moment and this production is well served by its cast. Charles Edwards plays Bertie … Jonathan Hyde is his Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue. Both face a mighty task: to match the film performances of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush - both meet the challenge. Edwards is golddust, old-school admittedly, but glistering talent all the same … Emma Fielding is less quirky as his wife Elizabeth… and therefore offers less comic relief, but it also makes Logue’s assault on convention seem the bolder … As for Hyde, I did not think anyone could match the amazing Rush but he does it. He is more clipped, again less indulged by the camera. It takes us closer to what the real Logue must have been … Director Adrian Noble employs a revolving, black-edged gauze screen and clips of old film … Interesting, that, in a Jubilee year. I cannot say I liked this more than the film. But I liked it equally. Result.”
- Catherine Noonan