A brilliant move to the stage.March 30th, 2012
by Quentin Letts
Different from the film, but just as satisfying.
Fascinating to see the stage version of David Seidler’s The King’s Speech, which was a theatre play before it became an Oscar-winning film….to see the stammering, frustrated George VI before a live audience as he makes his closing speech to the people becomes a powerful moment and this production is well served by its cast. Charles Edwards plays Bertie, tongue-tied Duke of York who never wanted (or did he?) to be king. Jonathan Hyde is his Aussie speech therapist Lionel Logue.
Both face a mighty task: to match the film performances of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush — both meet the challenge. Mr Edwards is golddust, old-school admittedly, but glistering talent all the same. In his clenched jaw and rectangular manner is there not an essence of Englishness?
He simply has to shut tight his eyes to give the impression of a central heating system a-boil with compression.
Mr Edwards is more plausibly stiff as the royal prince than Colin Firth was. He is so tightly held-in he is possibly truer to the original. Emma Fielding is less quirky as his wife Elizabeth (later Queen Mother), and therefore offers less comic relief, but it also makes Logue’s assault on convention seem the bolder. Charlotte Randle v. good, by the way, as Mrs Logue.
As for Mr Hyde, I did not think anyone could match the amazing Rush but he does it. He is more clipped, again less indulged by the camera. It takes us closer to what the real Logue must have been, surely. Is one lesson of this admirable production that theatre is more truthful than film?
Joss Ackland has an outing as George V. Ian McNeice wobbles some of his many jowls as Winston Churchill. Michael Feast is a bitchy Archbishop of Canterbury.
Director Adrian Noble employs a revolving, black-edged gauze screen and clips of old film.
Logue’s failings are accentuated. So is the Monarch’s loneliness.
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