The original play that inspired the Oscar Award winning film is now on stage in London. And if you liked the screen adaptation of The King’s Speech, there’s a very good chance you’ll love the play. The two are very different beasts though, and I suppose the most succinct way of distinguishing the two is to say that the play is more potent and less polite.
Didn’t see the movie? That’s okay. The play’s probably a more thorough and entertaining foray into how the Duke Of York became King George VI with a lot of help along the way from speech therapist Lionel Logue … and how the two men came to understand each other and be friends. Compared to the movie, the play delves deeper into the King’s background, his relationship with his brother and the political landscape of his day.
I caught a performance of The King’s Speech a couple of weeks back and left the theatre feeling uplifted and completely pleased to have spent an evening out watching a show. And that’s how the play proves to me it’s a winner. For someone like me to walk away actually giving a damn about the trials and tribulations of some privileged royal says a lot. The story as it’s presented taps into the same archetypal stuff of fairy tales: a prince transforms into a king with the aid of a magician (in this case, his speech therapist). We can all take from that the lessons of believing in ourselves and not letting pride get in the way of tackling our problems and confronting our fears.
Charles Edwards, as the King, gives a stellar performance, though there may be room to improve on his character arc. It doesn’t seem all that much of a stretch for his character to shake his stammering uncertainties and get on to the business of being a leader. He comes across as already rather ‘kingly’ from the start. Maybe the element of surprise just wasn’t there as I already knew the story too well and had the ending figured out well before I even took my seat?
All members of the cast give good show. The set is minimal, functional and elegant. The lighting is amazing. I loved how certain aromas were introduced (was that intentional?) at certain times to help establish mood.
The King’s Speech is on now at Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Road (near Leicester Square Station), London, WC2H 0DA with booking open until 21 July 2012.
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photo; Chris Osburn