Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Audience

Is Helen Mirren the Queen, 
or is the Queen Helen Mirren?

     How is it possible for one to catch an evening performance in London's West End and still be home to sleep in one's own bed that night? There's only one affordable way, and that is to view it at the movie theatre during a Fathom Event.  It was my pleasure to see The Audience starring Helen Mirren for which she recently won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the current Broadway run.

The Young Queen with PM Anthony Eden
     Mirren is best known for her Oscar-winning role in the 2006 film The Queen.  For this stage creation, based on the Queen's weekly meetings with her Prime Ministers, the same writer (Peter Morgan) has broadened our glimpse into Her Majesty's private life.  It's a premise that many like to imagine and the play only solidifies our trust in what those in the know can tell us.  It's all based on speculation, but one still feels a sense of truth after seeing it.  For me, that feeling comes from the convincing performance by Mirren.  

PM John Major,
The Secretary and The Queen
     The play starts with a little history about the Queen and her palace through the eyes (and ears) of her secretary who helps carry the plot from PM to PM.  The other significant device that helps pull one into their world is that it is not presented in chronological order.  That allowed for some rather magical onstage moments with Mirren being transformed from the 1990s back to her first meeting with Churchill.  Costumes, wigs and makeup all assist in transforming Mirren to her teens, but it is her changed voice and movements that are so remarkable.  In the second act, it happens again with her going from the 1950s up to present time right before one's eyes.

At Balmoral with Harold Wilson
     The scenes were sprinkled with several comedic situations, mostly provided by Harold Wilson and Maggie Thatcher.  The inner thoughts of the Queen are handled through conversations with her onstage teenage self offering some of the most poignant scenes of the performance.  The set design subtly changed for the periodic palace remodels and a surrealistic indoor/outdoor scene at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.  The lighting was exquisite, taking a large set and crafting it into a more intimate space.

     It's most likely that this was a one time onscreen performance.  However, look for it in a possible dvd release.  It'll be worth the wait.

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