Mail On SundayFebruary 19th, 2012
by Georgina Brown
Theatres across the country are littered with films that have been made into spectacularly successful musicals, The Lion King and Legally Blonde to name but two. Even the less good ones – The Wizard of Oz, Shrek, Ghost – effortlessly find an audience.
But what of straight plays that were movies first? The 39 Steps continues to delight because with a cast of four playing dozens of characters, it adds a new theatricality and buckets of slapstick comedy.
Calendar Girls pulls it off because it’s such a feelgood piece: it puts the tea into naughty bits while preserving the modesty of a line-up of well-loved middle-aged actresses with some strategically placed buns. And yet even a flash of a delectably naked Anna Friel couldn’t make a hit out of the lamentable stage version of Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
So what chance has the stage version of The King’s Speech got? Plenty, as it turns out, in addition to the heightened charge you get from live theatre staged with the flair Adrian Noble invariably displays.
For a start, author David Seidler has been able to reinstate many of the scenes deemed unnecessary for the screenplay (which he based on his then-unperformed play).
The story remains essentially, one man’s search for his voice and his right to use it, as Bertie Windsor not only overcomes his stammer but also grows into a role he never sought or expected: that of King George VI. But in the play, the political context is much clearer than in the film, with Churchill and a camp and creepy Archbishop of Canterbury also given their voices. More too, is made of Edward VIII (Daniel Betts) not just as a Nazi-lover and a playboy but a brutish brother who called his stuttering sibling ‘B-b-b-bertie’.
Compared with Colin Firth’s version, Charles Edwards’s Bertie has added bark and bite. More importantly, the increased self-awareness and intelligence Edwards gives his character makes better sense of the view of Bertie’s Aussie speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Jonathan Hyde) that he will ‘make a bloody good King’.
Noble’s top-notch, admirably fluent production moves from screen to stage without a stutter. Served with lashings of Elgar, it’s a right royal treat.
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