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Helen Mirren Stars in "The Audience", by Peter Morgan, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
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Helen Mirren Stars in "The Audience", by Peter Morgan, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

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Matthew Byam Shaw, Robert Fox, Andy Harries
et al.

Helen Mirren
The Audience
(The Audience Website)

By Peter Morgan
Directed by Stephen Daldry

At the
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street

Dylan Baker, Geoffrey Beevers, Michael Elwyn, Judith Ivey,
Dakin Matthews, Richard McCabe, Rod McLachlan,
Rufus Wright, Anthony Cochrane, Graydon Long,
Jason Loughlin, Michael Rudko, Henny Russell,
Tracy Sallows, Sadie Sink, Tony Ward

Designed by: Bob Crowley
Lighting Design: Rick Fisher
Sound Design: Paul Arditti
Composer: Paul Englishby
Hair & Makeup Design: Ivana Primorac
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Casting Director: Daniel Swee
Children’s Casting Director: Nora Brennan
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Advertising & Promotions: AKA
Animal Trainer: William Berloni
Assoc. Director: Justin Martin
Production Stage Manager: Jill Cordle
General Manager: Bespoke Theatricals

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 11, 2015 Matinee

In full disclosure, I’ve always been a huge fan of Queen Elizabeth II, a.k.a. the Queen, having seen her many decades ago, in person, as she rode with Prince Philip in a horse and carriage in Canada. The woman is made of steel, but usually with a smiling, gracious demeanor. Yet, as theatregoers at Peter Morgan’s new play, The Audience, now know, the Queen has weekly audiences with her prime ministers, at a precise starting and ending time, to discuss matters of state, politics, and personal issues of the prime ministers. On rare occasion, a special Queen’s audience may take place at her country estate, over a weekend visit. Mr. Morgan has organized this new play in a very sophisticated, historical fashion, to include palace audiences, not in chronological order, with eight British prime ministers, from 1940 to the present, not including, according to my research, the following: Clement Attlee, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas, Edward Heath, and James Callaghan. One of the eight, personified in the play, is Winston Churchill, who served for two non-consecutive terms, and about whom a one-man Off-Broadway play is having its own successful run this season. Helen Mirren takes on the role of the Queen during her reign, which began in February, 1952. As a matter of note, only Queen Victoria had a longer reign, of 63 years and 7 months. As of September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II will surpass Queen Victoria’s marker, becoming the longest reigning British monarch. That may be a good time for Mr. Morgan to ponder his theatrical sequel.

Ms. Mirren exudes a studied sense of self-constraint, self-possession, and extraordinarily refined manners, throughout this two-act, highly challenging performance. Of course, Ms. Mirren is a seasoned performer of all things Elizabethan, and, although, after today’s matinee, she still had another evening performance, she was totally mesmerizing, brimming with psychic energy. As Her Majesty’s Equerry, Geoffrey Beevers used gestures of face, posture, hand, and timing in a most entertaining characterization, to the credit of Director, Stephen Daldry. Mr. Daldry, in fact, elicited nuanced differentiations among all eight, reenacted prime ministers, to perfection. One of the most riveting British leaders was Judith Ivey, as Margaret Thatcher, with big hair, muscular stance, quick sarcasm, and an aggressive repartee with the Queen. Dakin Matthews, as Mr. Churchill, a war hero and avid historian, would be someone to share a bottle of brandy with, while Michael Elwyn, as Anthony Eden, and Rufus Wright, as Tony Blair, focused on Middle East politics and territory, with almost a half century of actual time between those two audiences. Mr. Wright was also dressed and wigged for a role as David Cameron, bringing the play to the present, within the script. Rod McLachlan, as an imploding Gordon Brown, was the most emotional, while Dylan Baker, as John Major, seemed to need a spine. Richard McCabe, as Harold Wilson, who served two non-consecutive terms, like Churchill, was very poignant, as Mr. Wilson comes to terms with his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

A breakout role for the youthful Sadie Sink, as young Elizabeth, has her impetuously riding a bike across the stage, as she tries to elude the hired security guards, in an effort to live like a normal girl, within the sense of “normality” of life with the Windsors. The most astounding element in this play, aside from Ms. Mirren’s accomplished, quick costume and wig changes and rapid morphing within youthful coronation gown to elderly, tailored suits, is Bob Crowley’s exceptional scenic design. It appeared that the Schoenfeld stage expanded for a half mile of regal chambers, with cornices and curtains diminishing in size. At the end of the endless hallways was a couch, probably sized for a doll, but, from my orchestra seat, the stage beckoned as an entrance into a palace. Footmen, balancing silver tea and crumpet trays, were dressed by Bob Crowley, as well, who designed Ms. Mirren’s multiple city and country (Balmoral) dresses, gowns, hats, crowns, and suits. Mr. Crowley brought out each prime minister’s personality through slight shifts in cut and style, while making Ms. Thatcher a veritable Brunhilda. Mr. Daldry has directed this masterpiece with an eye for encyclopedic detail and refined enunciation. Paul Englishby’s original music adds interest to the interludes, while Paul Arditti’s sound and Rick Fisher’s lighting are crisp, but warm. Ivana Primorac, hair and wig designer, had her work cut out, with so many shifts of period and persona. Kudos to Peter Morgan, kudos to Helen Mirren, and kudos to the Queen..

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at