The King Speech, originally a West End play, adapted into an award-winning 2010 film is back touring the UK. The play sees Prince Albert (or Bertie) overcome a series of family troubles and speech impediment with the help of his therapist, and friend, Lionel Logue to become a worthy King.
The King’s Speech as a play had a lot to live up to, and it did not disappoint. Walking into the House Theatre at the REP we were at first dubious of the light wood panelled set. But it quickly showed its worth, transforming from Royal suite to Cathedral to office swiftly but effectively. They used the doors in the panel to move from room to room creating different sets as they went, they even used to same props but managed to create a completely different room from their use of space. People appeared above the stage from the top of the doors to give BBC broadcasts.
Of course with the cast they had you would not expect mediocre acting – the two main characters Prince Albert and Lionel Logue were played by Raymond Coulthard and Jason Donovan. The character development of Prince Albert moving from an angry, insecure man to a more confident leader was perhaps the most touching character progression. This came hand in hand with the development of the relationship between Lionel and Bertie. Watching the two main characters from completely different worlds face completely different struggles yet unite in friendship was certainly a heart-warming aspect to the show. The scenes in Lionel’s office really helped to explain the character of Bertie. It was a nice opportunity to really understand the troubles of the character. Often plays leave certain aspects of characters unexplained so the audience are able to draw their own conclusions and take what they want from it. The King’s Speech explicitly showed why Bertie was how he was, and how Lionel worked with him to overcome that, something that was well delivered on stage. The most obvious theme to come from the play was friendship. The strength of compassion and acceptance helped make a man who didn’t believe he could be, become a King and one strong enough to lead a nation into war.
We both really enjoyed the strong female roles in the play. The premise of the abdication of Edward VIII (Jamie Hinde) was that he had fallen in love with a married woman, that was the main problem, not his Nazi leanings or bad attitude towards leadership. So it was nice that this was balanced with the two female leads Queen Elizabeth (Claire Lams) and Myrtle Logue (Katy Stephens) being such strong and influential characters. Both wives were key to their husbands’ success. It was even nicer to see strong married relationships between Bertie and Elizabeth and Lionel and Myrtle. We would however have liked to see Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth appear in the play, as they were in the film, to help further display the different character traits of Bertie.
Winston Churchill played by Nicholas Blane was a delight. His character is often met with a certain expectation and Blane did not disappoint, delivering a brilliant and amusing performance. The play was a lot funnier than we expected, some fantastic one-liners came from nearly the entire cast, and had the whole audience laughing.
Music was used really well throughout the play to emote the stutter of King Albert. The most obvious display of this was when Bertie recited Shakespeare without stuttering, the music increased so that the audience were able to get inside the head of the character. Indeed at the end of the play the music again built as Bertie – now King George VI recited his speech. This was accompanied nicely by the lowering of model planes from the ceiling used poignantly to foreshadow the upcoming war.
All in all, the play delivered a worthy performance. It was enjoyed by us both, Ellie having seen the film and Hope having not. It deserves as much success as the film, and is a definite must-see.