The national tour of David Seidler's The King's Speech - the world premiere of the play which inspired the multi award-winning film - opened in Guildford on 10 February (previews from 2 February 2011), directed by former RSC artistic director Adrian Noble.

Charles Edwards plays George VI (the role which won Colin Firth a Oscar) alongside Jonathan Hyde as Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, as played on the big screen by Geoffrey Rush. The pair are joined in the cast by Emma Fielding (Queen Elizabeth), Joss Ackland (George V) and Ian McNeice (Churchill).

Although all draw comparisons with the multi Bafta and Oscar-winning film incarnation of The King's Speech, the critics in Guildford were impressed by Edwards' performance as George VI. There was also much praise for the play's deeper exploration of the historical and political context surrounding the abdication crisis and the outbreak of WWII.

Having already moved from the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford, The King's Speech travels to Nottingham Theatre Royal, Bath Theatre Royal, Theatre Royal Brighton and Richmond Theatre, winding up at Newcastle's Theatre Royal on 17 March 2012.


Michael Coveney
Whatsonstage.com
★★★

"David Seidler's play… was first seen on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe several years ago … What happened next, of course, is one of the great show business stories of recent years … This classy touring production, adroitly directed by former RSC supremo Adrian Noble and smartly and glossily designed on a revolving stage by Anthony Ward, is the play of the play … It does have the superb Charles Edwards… and the vulpine, charismatic Jonathan Hyde… as well as Emma Fielding as a charming Queen Elisabeth, Daniel Betts as the flippantly debonair abdicating elder brother, Edward VIII, and the ever delightful Charlotte Randle … There's a hint of another play within this one that is not fully explored: Lionel's failed acting career … Noble also injects a spurious Shakespearean dimension into the scenes involving Churchill… Stanley Baldwin… Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury… and even… Joss Ackland as the fading King George V … It's not a great play, but it is very entertaining, and probably deserves a berth in the West End. However, there's a great conundrum: why would you want to see the play if you've recently seen the film, despite the considerable difference in some characters and dramatic emphases?"

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard
★★★★

"Before it graced the big screen, The King's Speech was, briefly, a play … Only now, four Oscars later, is it returning to the stage … In Adrian Noble's lucid production the central performances don't eclipse the memory of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in the film … Yet the relationship is movingly portrayed. Charles Edwards is superb as the King … Jonathan Hyde is wholly convincing as the unconventional Logue. Emma Fielding is an elegant presence as King George's wife Elizabeth, and Charlotte Randle makes a keen impression as Logue's wife … There's a neat design by Anthony Ward … A double revolve keeps the action on the move … While it's easy to quibble about whether a stage version of The King's Speech is necessary, the results are satisfying … A West End run looks inevitable."

Paul Taylor
Independent
★★★★

"The performances of Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are still fresh in the collective mind. So what is the point… of re-presenting the material in a different medium? … A moving clarity of focus proves to be one of the distinct merits of this theatrical version … There are moments here when Charles Edwards' excellent Bertie appears to be a kind of reverse-image double of Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist … Charles Edwards is, ironically, one of the most fluent and witty of verse speakers in the business … Emma Fielding is an amusingly tart stickler for protocol as Queen Elizabeth … I arrived thinking that this was a redundant exercise and leave with the thought that good material responds well to different approaches."

Michael Billington
Guardian
★★★★

"Watching David Seidler's play induces a strong sense of deja vu … Until I saw it on stage, I had not realised how much Seidler's piece owed to Alan Bennett's The Madness of George III … It is a cracking good story and Seidler deserves credit for seeing its dramatic potential … I wish Seidler had gone further: in particular in his portrait of Winston Churchill … The nub of the play lies in the relationship between the stammering Bertie and the therapeutic Lionel which works better than in the film because we get more detail … Edwards, who has been edging towards stardom for several seasons, has now unequivocally arrived. Jonathan Hyde also brings out the actorish side of Logue's personality … They are lent extra substance by Emma Fielding as the doughty future queen, Michael Feast as a vainglorious Archbishop of Canterbury … Ian McNeice as the side-shifting Churchill and Joss Ackland as the formidable George V. Adrian Noble also directs with visual elan … I still think Seidler could have dug deeper into the political context but I suspect his play will be a commercial hit."

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph
★★★★

"On the face of it, this stage version of The King's Speech might seem surplus to requirements … Yet judging by the audience’s rapt, warm reaction at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, I have a hunch it will prove a deserved hit on tour and transfer to the West End … Former RSC chief Adrian Noble directs a production that is elegant, lucid and witty … Better yet, the cast is superb … The splendid Charles Edwards has been on the cusp of stardom for some time and his funny, touching, deeply felt performance as the stammering King should propel him into the top rank of British actors … Jonathan Hyde’s wily Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue achieve exactly the right blend of humour and emotional depth … The political background is well caught with superb performances from Ian McNeice as a persuasive Churchill and Michael Feast as the creepy Archbishop of Canterbury … This production of The King's Speech is well timed for her Diamond Jubilee year."

Neil Norman
Daily Express

"Although screenwriter David Seidler originally wrote it for theatre, he was persuaded to turn it into a screenplay before it had ever taken a breath on stage … Sporting a cast of seasoned actors, it is a model of clarity … Though there is much here that was removed from the screenplay, it seems to move faster. There are conspicuous shifts of emphasis – David aka Edward VIII (Daniel Betts) is more malicious and cruelly cavalier towards his brother; speech therapist Lionel Logue (Jonathan Hyde) is a failed actor whose wife (Charlotte Randle) wants to return to Australia … Noble’s laudable production thus becomes less of an adjunct to the film and more an independent entity that exists satisfyingly on its own terms."

Libby Purves
The Times
★★★★

"We were watching the nervous King (Charles Edwards) practising in a humble flat, saying his lines to a mop lashed to a bucket while his puckish speech therapist Lionel Logue (Jonathan Hyde) urges him on with bursts of song and refreshing oaths … David Seidler wrote the play originally for stage, and in the hands of Noble and the marvellous Edwards, this world premiere feels subtler, more thoughtful than the movie … More stress is laid on the politics too … Charles Edwards is terrific, using light-tenor jerkiness to convey the painful awkward inhibition of the royal predicament. When Logue first offers a handshake he puts his hat in the outstretched palm: grow up like that, and all the world’s a valet to you. At the end, offering his own hand, the royal Pinocchio becomes human."