The Audience, starring Helen Mirren, opened last week at the Schoenfeld Theatre to pretty great reviews. Written by Peter Morgan and directed by the award winning Stephen Daldry, The Audience is a peek behind the palace door and what might be the conversations between the Queen of England and her 12 Prime Ministers during her lifelong reign. She would have a 20 minute meeting once a week with each of her PM’s. What would they be speaking about? How does the Queen really feel?
These questions are answered in fiction during the 2 hour and 20 minute production.
There are many fascinating elements of The Audience, one of which is the magnificent Helen Mirren leading the accomplished cast. She assumes the personality of the Queen, and ages her appropriately with each era, and each costume.
The sets are stunning and stately, and the swift costume and wig changes themselves receive applause.
The conversations with her Prime Ministers do not go in chronological order, but we see the Queen’s resignation about her sixty year (and counting) commitment throughout the piece. As she describes it, she is a “postal stamp with a pulse.”
There is an equal amount of wit, clever dialogue and poignant moments.
A young Queen Elizabeth II, is woven in and out of the play. She yearns to have a normal life, but is told she must take on the role of a royal at a very young age. Quite lovely are the scenes where young Queen Elizabeth speaks to her older self. The two dogs who run on and off stage receive oohs and aahs (as dogs on stage generally do!)
Stories about the royal family always receive a great deal of attention. The premise of this play is an excellent one.
But I did not see the benefit of writing a 2 hour and 20 minute piece. Although each Prime Minister has his or her own personality and various topics are discussed in the privacy of the chambers, the convention is the same, and the arc of the Queen never really wavers.
At times, The Audience can be tedious, and I was wishing for a sharp, swift 90 minute version of the play. Is that impertinent of me to suggest? Maybe I just needed a bracing cup of tea, which is served often during the various scenes.