The Audience (2013)

  |  Drama

The Audience (2013) Poster

For Sixty years Elizabeth II has met each of her twelve Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace- a meeting like no other in British public life- it is private. Both ... See full summary »

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews

5 July 2015 | barryrd
| Impressive performance
I was delighted to get tickets for this play which was filmed live and made available to theatre audiences. After the first half of the show, I was impressed but slightly disappointed in a performance that seemed somewhat over the top. I felt that the monarch and her prime ministers would never speak to one another in a way that seemed like a breach of protocol. However, I was impressed with the acting of Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II and Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson.

Edward Fox didn't resonate very well as Winston Churchill. I kept seeing the 35 year old who acted the part of a sniper in The Day of the Jackal. He also took to lecturing the young Queen which I have trouble imagining since he had so much respect for her. As it turned out, Elizabeth was more than a match for him and made it clear the audience would be on her terms. I also found the voices to be very loud, even for me with a serious hearing problem. But of course we were not hearing the voices as those in an audience would have.

The second half of the drama was much better. Perhaps because I had adjusted to being directly in front of the performers. I also enjoyed the return of Harold Wilson to the stage. He had some wonderful lines and they were delivered superbly. The man had mellowed in his attitude to the monarch and his honesty and large dose of humour won the Queen over since their first meeting years before. Their last encounter was tinged with surprise and sadness.

Paul Ritter's performance as John Major was an opportunity for the monarch to show her experience in dealing with a man who had lost all confidence in himself. Ritter showed his range by showing a much stronger persona when confronting the Queen about opening the Palace to the public on occasion and a real dagger to the heart, the decommissioning of the Royal Yacht Britannia. On this occasion, it was the Queen whose emotions were on display.

The meeting with Margaret Thatcher showed a real difference in personality between the two strong women. Many will think the Queen outmatched her but I think both came off very well. I think people who remember Thatcher have a good idea of how she would operate in such circumstances.

I was disappointed that the version I saw omitted Harold MacMillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Tony Blair. I think each of these prime ministers would have made fascinating material. I was impressed with the filler that took place during the intermission and the interview with Helen Mirren after the performance.

While there can be problems for actors coping with television cameras on stage and performing for two audiences, the overall result was hugely satisfying. The difficulties were touched upon in an interview between the director and Helen Mirren at the end of this tremendous performance. Nonetheless, I would gladly watch it again.

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