She isn’t cheap. She’s thrifty. She does her homework. She is confident, charming, composed, and at rare times impatient. She allows her Prime Ministers (twelve in all – eight seen here – not in chronological order) twenty minutes of her valuable time once a week in a private meeting to bring her up to speed on matters of state in this intriguing new play THE AUDIENCE by Peter Morgan who also wrote THE QUEEN. Same Queen. Same actress. Both a class act. She is Helen Mirren portraying Queen Elizabeth II. And doing so brilliantly with a droll sense of humor, ram rod posture and her infamous handbag.
Costumes and wigs are magically changed as the different men and one woman visit. As do her figure and stance. She listens. Has no power. Must support her Prime Minister at all costs. But she is smart and well-read and has a few papers up her own sleeve to question her sometimes shy, sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes overbearing PMs.
It’s a fascinating glimpse into what makes Queen Elizabeth tick as she reveals that she “loathes the palace” and is “happiest on the water” – Hail Britannia! Or having a picnic in the rain with her corgis at Castle Balmoral.
The scenes between her younger self (a very special Sadie Sink who alternates with Elizabeth Teeter) are quite clever, tender and theatrically brilliant. One of the fine details supplied from director Stephen Daldry.
The military precision of the two handsome and young white gloved footmen who add or subtract certain pieces of furniture as the scenes change contribute to the glamor of royal pageantry that the excellent Geoffrey Beevers (who is our guide through the 6o years of Elizabeth’s reign) has set up.
The spectacular sets and costumes by Bob Crowley are award winners to be. As is the lighting design by Rick Fisher. The coronation scene at the end of Act I is sumptuous and majestic.
The entire cast is quite good. Churchill (Dakin Matthews) and Margaret Thatcher (Judith Ivey an odd choice) are the two most obvious PMs. There is a handy reference guide of the inhabitants of 10 Downing Street to assist in identifying the others (who are not distinctive enough): John Major (Dylan Baker) Anthony Eden (Michael Elwyn) Harold Wilson (Richard McCabe) Gordon Brown (Rod McLachlan) and Rufus Wright who portrays both David Cameron and Tony Blair that leads to a bit of confusion.
The imagined dialogue at these tete-a-tetes include the Suez crisis, sanctions for South Africa, Charles and Diana, holiday houses in the country and a delay tactic of using a photo shoot to delay her scheduled meeting and her desire not only to be a great Queen but a great mother and wife. There was always a war or crisis pending and Elizabeth always asks – “Well what will be the outcome?”
It has indeed been very good for Queen Elizabeth as she is still on the throne and has no intention of leaving. She is rarely ill and in good spirits outwardly. THE AUDIENCE shows a bit of her inner turmoil and determination. At the Schoenfeld Theatre 45th Street.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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