The one about a King who finds it difficult to make a speech?
With its run drastically cut short I quickly made the effort to make sure I caught this production in the final week at The Wyndhams theatre. After being hailed with glorious reviews across the board it’s difficult to understand why this production served its notice early and closed the doors.
The production which charts the transition from George V to the reluctant George VI taking the throne after his brother advocated. The problem the country had with their new successor, who never expected to become King, is that he suffered from a crippling stammer. At a time when the Royal family realised that they couldn’t just “sit on a horse and wave” the birth of the radio opened avenues for the reigning monarch to address his people across the country. This becomes very difficult when every word can become a chore.
The beauty of this production is the 100% truth of its content. George VI or Bertie as he was affectionately known by his family did suffer from a stammer. His wife, Queen Elizabeth sourced a vocal specialist and settled for a Australian immigrant Lionel Logue. With the truth of this story being so interesting there is a great deal of responsibility when presenting such a work. This is where the production earns its stars. Charles Edwards who has the incredibly difficult honour of portraying King George VI does so in an astounding performance. I cannot imagine the work and research that had gone into his development of this character as the stammer, which is such an unnatural affliction in the everyday comes across as a natural curse upon the stage. You don’t doubt that the actor before you actually suffers from the inability to get his words out and this is no mean feat to perform this convincingly. Emma Fielding takes the takes the role of Queen Elizabeth and does so with all the poise and grace you would expect of our dear Queen Mother yet creates a personality that we of course would not see. Jonathan Hyde takes the role of Lionel Logue the failed Australian actor who finds himself with the most extraordinary client. Allowing no airs or graces when within his company and striving for the unthinkable to become equals when in session, a serious of humorous events unfold as we witness Logues somewhat unorthodox methods to help the King speak.
With a host of splendid performances you can only wonder why they didn’t get people through the door. My only feeling is that no matter how skilled the performance the timing of this production is just too early from the film starring Colin Firth cleaned up across all the award ceremonies in the last year. As good as the performances are in the flesh, with West End ticket prices soaring, and a script that mirrors the screenplay considerably, you may wish to view in the comfort of your home with a bottle of red for three quarters the price in the theatre for a glass, and watch “Mr Darcy” create one of his finest roles.
This by no means belittles the achievement by such a talented cast, it is just unfortunate that the production came too early for people to want to revisit the story.