Peter Morgan’s play dramatizes over 60 years of meetings between the Queen and England’s PMs
Presented by David Mirvish and the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre
Written by Peter Morgan
Directed by Christopher Newton
Royal watchers have plenty of fare about the life of Queen Elizabeth II to choose from these days. From Netflix’s brilliant new series The Crown (written by Peter Morgan who also wrote the Academy Award-winning film The Queen), to the BBC's 2016 documentary The Queen at 90—A Family Tribute, it seems Her Majesty is enjoying a fresh moment in the spotlight of late. In keeping with this trend, David Mirvish and The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre have joined forces to present a Canadian production of Peter Morgan’s The Audience starring Fiona Reid as Queen Elizabeth II.
Now on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the play imagines conversations that may have taken place between Queen Elizabeth and England’s Prime Ministers at their traditional weekly meetings, or “audiences.” Spanning a period of over 60 years, the play peeks behind the palace curtain as Elizabeth meets with the likes of Sir Winston Churchill (John B. Lowe), Anthony Eden (Paul Essiembre), Sir John Major (Evan Buliung), Tony Blair (Kevin Klassen), Gordon Brown (Benedict Campbell) and David Cameron (Ben Carlson). Moving from present to past and back again, the narrative touches on notable historical events such as the Suez Crisis and the war in Iraq.
Between audiences, the Queen engages in conversation with her younger self (played by Naomi Cronk), which allows her to switch costumes to suit each decade. It is these scenes in particular that give away something of Elizabeth’s true personality, revealing the sacrifices she has made by dedicating her life to the service of her country.
As with many North American adaptations of British shows, the accents are often inconsistent, and Christoper Newton's production is no exception. Reid brings charisma to the role of the Queen, however her mannerisms and vocals are frequently too over-the-top to feel authentic. She is most entertaining to watch as a more subdued Elizabeth in her older years. Other highlights include scenes between Her Majesty and Prime Minister Harold Wilson (Nigel Bennett), with whom she apparently enjoyed a true friendship, as well as a powerful encounter with Margaret Thatcher (played to perfection by Kate Hennig), and the brief appearance of Corgis named Butters and Hachi.
Royal admirers will likely relish The Audience, but those without intimate knowledge of the subject matter may find it a tad dull.
The Audience runs until February 26, 2017 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Visit mirvish.com for more information and to buy tickets.