18 July 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
'The Audience' was a completely new discovery for me but really wanted to see it for a good deal of things. Have immense fondness for the National Theatre Live cinema series, of which there are many gems, and love how accessible they are. Also love Helen Mirren as an actress and she fits and plays regal characters magnificently. A play mixing humour, pathos and satire sounded really appealing and the concept just sounded so interesting.
Found myself not disappointed at all by 'The Audience', then again to be honest there were no doubts in the first place. Found the play very interesting and entertaining with good balance of tone. And the production was first rate. It is always great to see a production of a play completely new, being somewhat refreshing when you want a change from seeing either productions of plays that are oft-performed and very famous or productions of plays that aren't as well known and revived. That is the joy of the National Theatre Live series, that balance of new, familiar and seldom performed often with great casts.
Mirren is the main reason to see 'The Audience', she is the full embodiment of Elizabeth and plays her with full authority and nuance. The other outstanding performance came from Richard McCabe, the scenes between him and Mirren really struck an emotional chord. Barely recognisable Paul Ritter's performance is also deeply felt and the fiery Haydn Gwynne is a very strong contrast, her and Mirren's chemistry has a lot of fire and steel.
It is a simple but also attractive production visually, the actors also cope with the transformations incredibly well and some were pretty rapid. The staging is intelligent and despite the story structure it is not hard to follow and entertained and moved. The young Elizabeth touch wasn't in any way distracting in my mind, and helped give Elizabeth some dimension.
As far as the script goes, that is one of the best things about 'The Audience' other than Mirren. Humour, pathos and satire can be heard throughout, beautifully balanced and each executed extremely well on their own. The humour is genuinely funny and can be witty and also ironic. The pathos is genuinely moving and will admit tearing up, especially in the scenes between Elizabeth and McMillan. The satire is sharp and mocks effectively, but never in a mean way, enough of it was pretty gentle.
Do agree though that Edward Fox was dull as Churchill when he didn't have the tendency to go overboard with the line delivery.
Altogether, apart from that this was a fine performance. 9/10