The Theatreguide.London Review
Wyndham's Theatre Spring 2012
This stage version of the popular film is written by the screenwriter David Seidler and tells essentially the same story, of the stammering Duke who became King George VI and the eccentric Australian therapist who helped him overcome his handicap.
There are a few fresh nuances to this retelling, and different actors and a different director colour the events and characters in unexpected ways, so even those who have seen the film can find much that is interesting and entertaining here.
Chief among the changes is the whole flavour of the two central characters and their relationship. Perhaps it's the lack of close-ups, but Charles Edwards' Bertie is considerably less defined by a single note of pain than Colin Firth was. Edwards gives us a much more rounded portrait of a man who we understand as husband, brother, son, politician and royal, and not just unhappy stammerer.
Jonathan Hyde's Lionel Logue is less eccentric than Geoffrey Rush's, just a man who is confident in his skills and methods, and applies them with enthusiasm. We can believe and enjoy the unforced warmth of the friendship that develops between the men as they begin to relax with each other.
My memory of the film may be clouded, but there seems to be more background to this version – more about the events around the Abdication, the behind-the-scenes attempts to control the new substitute king and, on the other side, Mrs. Logue's desire to give it all up and return to Australia.
Under Adrian Noble's direction the two leads are excellent, and Emma Fielding and Charlotte Randle provide strong support as wives royal and non.
Blink and you'll miss the actors playing George V, Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson and Stanley Baldwin, though Ian McNeice as a standard-issue Churchill and Michael Feast as a surprisingly devious Archbishop of Canterbury leave more of an impression.
The one inescapable flaw that haunts both film and play, of course, is the implication that speaking fluently on the radio is the single essential requirement for a successful monarch. Look past that, and there is still an entertaining, moving and perhaps even inspiring story worth the re-telling.
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