The Audience opened in London’s West End in June 2013 starring Helen Mirren, who has recently taken the show to Broadway. Now, two years on and perfectly timed to tie in with the 2015 General Election, the show is back at the Apollo Theatre, this time starring Kristin Scott Thomas.
The show focuses around weekly meetings that the Queen has with eight of the twelve Prime Ministers she has seen during her time in reign. This is all speculation as these meetings have always been private but Peter Morgan (who also wrote The Queen) covers many different subject matters that may have come up over the years. From Winston Churchill to David Cameron, we see personal, private conversations that make you feel you are truly a fly on the wall in the Queens living room.
Kristin Scott Thomas is sublime as the Queen. As the leader of the country, she is well aware she is nothing more than a postage stamp with a pulse. She says ‘people don’t look to the monarchy to see how the country will survive, they look to the prime minister’. Scott-Thomas gives good comedic impressions of the prime ministers and keeps the audience engaged by varying the tone of her voice during long monologues.
The set is simple, yet beautiful, with great lighting and clever on-stage costume changes where the queen transforms herself throughout the ages. The ending of act one, which shows the Queens coronation was spectacular and awe inspiring.
David Calder plays Winston Churchill well, a man stuck in his ways and who insists the Queen run the meetings the same way her father did.
Mark Dexter plays David Cameron brilliantly. I also liked the man who played Tony Blair (which I later realised was Mark Dexter as well!) The Cameron scenes provide the comedic moments in the show. At one point, the Queen is so un-interested in his ramblings that she falls asleep and Cameron takes a picture of her on his phone.
John Major, a man uncomfortable in his own crisis is played well by Michael Gould. He passes the time during their meetings talking about fish and how Diana feels the monarchy is out dated and a luxury the public can no longer afford.
Gordon Kennedy, as Gordon Brown, gives a strong scottish performance as the man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to express his opinions. This is after all, the job he feels he was born to do.
Sylvestra Le Touzel plays the fiery Margaret Thatcher well. Riled up over a Sunday Times article in which the Queen supposedly called her uncaring, un-compassionate and damaging to society. The two bicker in the most professional of ways, due to Thatchers belief that you need to look after number one before looking after your neighbour, something which doesn’t bode well with the Queen.
There is a beautiful scene with the Queen being photographed in her full royal attire, when Anthony Eden (played by David Robb) enters to tell her that a war needs to be instigated. The Queen knows he is lying about how this has come about and shows that whilst she may be seen as just the face of the country, she knows exactly what is happening and nothing gets past her.
Harold Wilson, (played by Nicholas Woodeson) is a simple man, uncomfortable in his surroundings, wanting to adapt, evolve and modernise the country. He gives a good performance as the man who turns out to be the one prime minister the Queen has held a special torch for in her heart over the years.
The Audience is a great piece of theatre which goes back and forth throughout time. It couldn’t be back in the West End at a better time and seeing the show on the eve of the election, hearing the Queen wish David Cameron luck in the election, made things feel ever so much more real. Hardcore political buffs will love this show and those who don’t engross themselves in these types of things can also have a very enjoyable evening and learn a few things at the same time. I know I did.
What ever the outcome of today’s vote, The Audience certainly gets mine. Go see it.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Johan Persson
The Audience is playing at the Apollo Theatre until 25 July 2015. Click here for tickets