I’d been seeking a ticket for this West End show since January. Yes, before the curtains of this play had even drawn. Alas, the press night was on the 4th March – when I was slicing through the snow in St Anton – so, I couldn’t make it. By the time I returned, the new show on the block had been reviewed and a press ticket was no longer available.
Why not buy a ticket? Well, this is where the show returned to the news, for (running neck and neck with The Book of Mormon) The Audience is the most expensive ticket in town; with a dress circle seat setting you back a whopping £124. An Intern at The Daily Telegraph, shelling out over a week’s allowance for one night was sadly out of the question. I tried to stave my desires; voyaging to other parts of town with The Upcoming and sinking my journalistic claws into as many productions as possible.
Still my thirst for the Mirren-led performance was not slaked. Still I concocted plans to slip in through the wings and gain access; it was a far-fetched mission, but that was how desperate I had become. Then, just as I was going to give up hope, I received a text message from, let’s call him the Other (as in the other journalist), which read: ‘What are you doing on Monday night? Have been offered tickets for Helen Mirren in The Audience. Thought you would enjoy seeing it, and I’d enjoy reading your review!’
The Other didn’t realise how right he was. Enjoy seeing it – what an understatement, I would love to see it, and indeed I loved seeing it. Last night, at precisely 7.13 p.m, I met the Other outside the Geilgud Theatre (35 Shaftesbury Avenue), for the 7.30 p.m performance of Peter Morgan’s The Audience. The play (as mentioned) stars Helen Mirren, who has returned to the role that won her the Oscar, as Queen Elizabeth II. The plot is based on the traditional Tuesday evening meeting that our Monarch has with our Prime Minister, and has had with Prime Ministers before him. Indeed, in just 2 hrs 20 mins we were given an insight into what the weekly meetings – spanning over 60 years – might have been like.
A superb script by Morgan (Frost/Nixon) sewed together a Diamond Jubilee’s worth of history seamlessly. Opting out of a chronological order format, shifts between leaders – Wilson to Thatcher, Cameron to Callaghan, Major to Eden – were both cleverly crafted and smoothly executed under the eye of Director Stephen Daldry.
What perhaps stood out the most, aside from mega-superstar Dame Helen, was the degree of humour and wit the plot carried. I hadn’t expected a play about the Queen and Prime Ministers to be so funny. Mirren’s exceptional performance of our Monarch copyright’s itself (no-one can own the role now, and who would want, or dare attempt to recreate it?); from her pursed lips, her perfectly timed pauses, to her subtle leg-crosses and even the delicate fiddling of fingers, she was uncanny in her resemblance. It was the turn-of-the-head pauses, almost Pinter-esque, that brought the most laughter and really captured the ‘not saying anything, yet saying everything look’ that has been asserted about the Queen.
A notable absence was that of Tony Blair who, though mentioned, didn’t make the cut for character – one supposes this is due to the large air-time that the former Labour leader received in the 2006 film, and that there wasn’t enough time within the show to appropriately cover the death of Princess Diana. Or perhaps his scene was cut to make way for a new addition between Cameron and the Queen about the death of Margaret Thatcher, in which, Cameron expresses his support for the Queen to attend the longest ever serving Prime Minister’s funeral tomorrow.
Aside from the marvellous Mirren, it was Richard McCabe, who played Harold Wilson, that stole the show. His portrayal of the Huddersfield-born Labour Leader, who served as Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976, was absolutely fantastic. Gait, accent, tone and aura were captured faultlessly and he was undoubtedly the audience’s – of The Audience – favourite.
In conclusion, if you are willing to break the piggy bank then I would highly recommend going to see The Audience. Interesting, topical, well-written and highly amusing, this play is a wonderful opportunity to see a stellar cast in action.
For tickets visit: http://www.theaudienceplay.com/home/