The Audience, written by playwright Peter Morgan, imagines the conversations of the weekly meetings held between Queen Elizabeth II and the various British Prime Ministers holding power from 1940 all the way up to just before the Brexit fiasco. The script jumps back and forth in time and we meet famed PM’s including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher as well as lesser known PM’s. Not being that familiar with some of the lesser known PM’s represented in the play is perhaps why it was more difficult to follow and fully engage with the show.
The performances are strong. Fiona Reid is magnificent as the Queen. She subtly changes her mannerisms, carriage and vocal patterns to capture the Queen at various ages. She is completely believable in her role and what she accomplishes is quite a feat. Kate Hennig as Margaret Thatcher, John B. Lowe as Winston Churchill, and Nigel Bennett as Harold Wilson are also stand-outs.
Christina Poddubiuk creates a simple yet regal set as well as some glorious costumes, especially the spectacular coronation gown. It’s entertaining to see a parade of the Queen’s many colourful frocks that Reid must dash in and out of at breakneck speed.
The problems with the play lies squarely in the writing. Watching two actors sit across from each other in chairs for two hours quickly grows dull. Some scenes were more interesting than others but much of the writing is dry with very few emotional arcs. So much of the writing is exposition rather than the more meaty emotional dialogue Morgan was able to capture in much of his other work. Morgan also wrote the screenplay for The Queen, a piece that was so much more electric and emotional than this stage play.
I’m quite sure that there is an audience for this production and it’s worth a look to see the performances, especially what Reid pulls out. It sometimes felt as though we were at a history lecture. I just imagine these meetings hold more vitality than what was captured in this production.
The Audience is on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre now through February 26. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.mirvish.com