THE KING'S SPEECH
live on stage at Wyndham's Theatre
"We've become actors …" complains the old king, George V, indignant at the thought of having to speak in public, having one's words beamed to the nation. Did Churchill really write Edward VIII's abdication speech ? Or Kipling the scripts for those early broadcasts ? Churchill famously had an actor record his wartime speeches – why should the King not do the same ?
David Seidler's play – the original treatment of the true story of Bertie's speech therapist – is textually much richer, psychologically more intriguing than the film. It is in many ways an old-fashioned piece, proving that, given an inspired director [Adrian Noble] and a top-flight cast, it is possible to create a satisfying theatrical experience from a good basic storyline and some larger than life characters.
The death of the King [Joss Ackland no less] is given more prominence, as is the politicking in smoke-filled rooms over the Abdication. The pragmatic Churchill [Ian McNeice], Baldwin [David Killick] and the deliciously indiscreet Cosmo Lang [Michael Feast, more reminiscent of Sir John than ever] all have an important input.
And good to see a more rounded character for "Madame Logue" the shop-girl who longs to board a boat back to Perth, here movingly portrayed by Charlotte Randle.
Charles Edwards makes a totally convincing stammerer, and a very human king, most of all in the scenes where he duels with his therapist [a compelling Jonathan Hyde, especially effective in strong-willed stillness], at first awkwardly, with light banter, then more intensely as they move closer over the balsa-wood biplanes and the Stone of Scone.
Anthony Ward's impressive set, a lovely domestic interior for Logue's rooms, and a massive black-framed screen/mirror on the revolve, kept the action moving over a succession of short scenes, from the sound of the wireless being tuned to the hand of friendship over a swelling Nimrod. Superb theatre – one hopes not too soon after the Firth film to have the box office success it deserves.
production photograph: Manuel Harlan