"Long live the audience!"
-The Independent-

"Scott Thomas is a match for Mirren"
-The Daily Telegraph-

-The Evening Standard-

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A fantastic piece of theatre

Critic Rating

29 April 2015, Apollo Theatre
Guest Reviewer Guest Reviewer
As HRH Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 89th birthday, I went to see Peter Morgan's play The Audience, that focuses on her many audiences with her Prime Ministers. During her reign she has had twelve different first ministers and who knows - in a few weeks' time, she could be welcoming her thirteenth!

With Helen Mirren currently playing the role on Broadway, it was up to Kristen Scott Thomas to fill the shoes. And fill them she did!

The play flits back and forth between the decades, with The Queen changing age and costume every ten minutes. The script is well-written, with plenty of laugh out loud moments, especially the dry remarks from the Queen when she's dismissing her ministers... Often without them realising.

Each of the ministers is instantly recognisable and although it's always difficult for an actor to play such a role without exaggeration, the caricatures are not too extreme. David Cameron (Mark Dexter) is perhaps a little bit too keen schoolboy (and the photo he takes is totally disrespectful), but it is a good likeness of our current PM.

The comparisons drawn between past and present situations is also tackled well, with HRH reminiscing about certain times, including when she was a girl. Her younger self is played beautifully by Izzy Meikle Small and she sounds very like the Queen in her broadcast from South Africa.

Nicholas Woodeson is fantastic as Harold Wilson and the scenes when we learn of his Alzheimer's are touching, especially after watching their relationship develop during their time at Balmoral. Additional PMs include David Calder as Winston Churchill, Michael Gould as John Major and Sylvestra Le Touzel as Margaret Thatcher.

The sets are simple, with all but one scene taking place in the Audience Chamber of Buckingham Palace. Yet they're effective, because the focus is on the conversation and physicality of each character.

The Audience is interesting, witty and a good representation of how the meetings may or may not have gone, bringing out the humour that we know the Queen possesses, while Scott Thomas shows us her true vulnerability and dedication.

A fantastic piece of theatre.

by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Venue: The Apollo Theatre

Date: 29/04/15

Lead Actors: Kristin Scott Thomas, David Calder, Mark Dexter, Michael Gould, Gordon Kennedy, Sylvestra Le Touzel, David Robb and Nicholas Woodeson.

Where I sat: Grand Circle Box B there was an ever so slightly side on view but this was not a problem for this particular show as most of the action takes place in the centre of the stage. Overall a good option for the price.

Recommended for: If you enjoyed Peter Morgan's film The Queen then you will enjoy this play which extends the concept of the Queen's weekly meetings with her PM's.

The Independent
The play is most enjoyable in the most extreme encounters - Morgan really goes for it in an icy battle of gilded wills between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher (a sonorous Sylvestra Le Touzel). Meanwhile, a surprisingly intimate relationship with Harold Wilson is based on mutual mockery across the class divide. Nicholas Woodeson plays Wilson as a chippy but jolly gnome, and their odd-couple friendship adds a core of true feeling in what could risk being a series of policy chats. Thankfully, Morgan’s imagination too audacious for that. Long live the audience! By Holly Williams

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Dominic Cavendish
Elegant Dame Kristin easily holds her own against the gilded memory of Dame Helen Mirren – now reprising her turn, to Tony Award-nominated effect, on Broadway. Her Elizabeth is taller than the monarch, and more icily “regal”; the actress implies that the Queen takes a certain enjoyment at the discomfort she can cause with a telling, reproving silence or too-pained diplomatic smile. If one thesis of the evening is that she has served as a safety-valve for prime-ministerial pressure, it’s overly insinuated that she also toys with that tension.

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Henry Hitchings
The central role in Peter Morgan’s play was created for Helen Mirren, who’s currently reprising it majestically on Broadway. But while Kristin Scott Thomas feels a less obvious choice to portray the Queen, she proves an entirely credible successor... Stephen Daldry’s production, opulently designed by Bob Crowley, has a palatial sense of spectacle. Brisk costume changes enable Scott Thomas to move swiftly between regimes. The transformations feel almost magical, and while the play may not illuminate the intricacies of either politics or the Royal Family, it’s an entertaining, ultimately touching portrait of a woman whose life has been a strange mixture of visibility and aloofness.

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Michael Coveney

And in Helen Mirren's brilliant but un-showy performance - magically still and dignified, with a glancing look of either regret or critical intervention despatched along her own left shoulder and arm - we see an almost Shakespearean monarch who measures her own loneliness and sense of duty against the temporal troubles of her premier politicians, some of whom are even keener to tell her how to do her job than they are to explain their own.

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Michael Billington

However hard Morgan tries, the evening can't help but seem like a series of revue sketches: a kind of "1956 And All That". What holds it together is Stephen Daldry's adroit production and Helen Mirren's luminous performance, which, even in a non-linear script, pins down the Queen's steady growth in confidence and authority. Daldry has had the witty idea of allowing many of the costume changes to take place on stage so that we see Mirren, like an upmarket Gypsy Rose Lee, shedding her layers of costume...

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Paul Taylor

Hugely enjoyable and cumulatively very affecting, this new play by Peter Morgan (author of The Queen) unfolds as a series of speculative public peeks into that most private of customs: the weekly confidential meetings between the monarch and the twelve Prime Ministers (stretching from Churchill to Cameron) who have served over the course of her sixty-one year reign. 

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