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National Theatre Live: The Audience

Starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II

Review by Andrew L. Urban: A seductive and delicious set of hypothetical conversations peppered with humour, pathos and satire, Peter Morgan’s The Audience is audacious only in that it dares to imagine the most private conversations between Britain’s most public figures. A dozen of them. While Morgan does not know what was really said over the years, he uses actual historical milestones on which to hang his hypotheticals. So for example the fiery exchange between her and Margaret Thatcher (Haydn Gwynne) is triggered by a Sunday Times article in which the Queen is said to have been dismayed by Thatcher’s lack of empathy for the workers – and their disagreement over handling South Africa. Morgan imagines well and what we see and hear is pretty authentic, even if it isn’t accurate. This goes for all the conversations, and while the Prime Ministers are treated with reference to their public personas, the Queen is shown to be a much more rounded character than her public persona. We get the sense that Morgan has a big soft spot for the Queen, and while he allows touches of satire to creep into the characterisation of her, too, it is not at all meanspirited. The construct of the play is both expansive and economical: it is the former because it spans 60 years and moves from the audience room in Buckingham Palace to her Scottish castle and back again. It is the latter because it is tightly written. Apart from the central conversations, Morgan also imagines the Queen as a 15 year old girl, who appears as a sort of companion from time to time to reflect on people and events in her youth. It’s not at all distracting, in fact it adds a texture to the portrait of a woman who sees herself in very simple terms: a postage stamp with a pulse, she quips. Gently mocking one minute, heartfelt the next, The Audience is a great opportunity to participate cinematically in that which Britain has always done very well: great theatre.Official Trailer
Showtimes: 

No screenings currently scheduled.

Directed by: 
Stephen Daldry
Running Time: 
145
Country(ies): 
U.K.
Language: 
English
Starring: 
Helen Mirren, Edward Fox, Rufus Wright, Haydn Gwynne, Richard McCabe
Screenplay by: 
Peter Morgan

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