Writer: David Seidler
Director: Roxana Silbert
Designer: Tom Piper
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
From soap superstar, 80’s pop prince, through some wilderness years, to a reinvention as a star of the musical theatre scene, Jason Donovan now emerges as serious actor in David Seidler’s original stage version of The King’s Speech.
Playing Lionel Logue, the failed actor and untrained speech therapist tasked with curing the future George VI’s stammer, Donovan delivers a masterful performance of surprising depth, strength and warmth. No respecter of royal protocol Logue, torments, tortures and teases ‘Bertie’ into finding his voice.
Raymond Coulthard as Bertie: stiff, emotionally cold, quick of temper, unloved and over-looked and heartbreakingly vulnerable, is in perfect contrast to Donovan’s ‘Aussie bloke’, Logue. The bond of friendship that develops between the two men is beautifully wrought and the chemistry between the two actors a joy to watch, praise must also go to Coulthard for his portrayal of the future King’s stammer, which is sensitively and realistically conveyed.
What the play does that the big screen version does not, is provide a more expansive political background on which to set the action: detailing the behind the scenes tug of war for power between Winston Churchill and the Archbishop of Canterbury as to who pulls the strings of the “dim” second son; how they will get rid of the “empress of the night” Wallace Simpson and highlighting the fascist leaning tendencies of Edward VIII, which loom somewhat larger on stage than they did on screen. It adds more weight to the seriousness of the situation and how close the monarchy actually came to crumbling.
Played out on Tom Piper’s slickly functional, wood panelled set, which cleverly and atmospherically transforms from royal palace, to Harley Street treatment room, to Westminster Abbey to radio station, this is a masterfully written, emotive piece of theatre which also doublesas the most beautifully told history lesson you could ever wish for.
Perfectly pitched and played, this is as impeccable a piece of theatre as you are likely to find on any stage around the UK at the moment – pure class.
Runs until Saturday 21 March 2015 then touring