Kristin Scott Thomas Is A Postage Stamp With A Pulse
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
How thin is the line between influence and power, between reigning and ruling? Writer Peter Morgan broaches these questions in his hit play The Audience, which now features Kristin Scott Thomas in the role of the current monarch, taking over from Helen Mirren who recently took the same show to Broadway.
Dramatizing the Queen’s weekly briefings with a dozen Prime Ministers, The Audience explores what goes on behind very privileged palace doors.
Scott Thomas, with her priceless magisterial expressions, is a pleasure to watch in a performance that traces the legacy of rule across six decades of political change. We see both a flawlessly stoic leader imparting wisdom during times of conflict, but then also observe her softer and mildly self-criticizing sides as a woman, wife and mother, this vocalized at one point by her desire for a successful marriage.
While meeting the PMs, Scott Thomas transitions seamlessly between young and old; with one of the show’s highlights being the juxtaposition of her as a young Queen, nervous yet grounded, meeting an unyielding Churchill who, in his attempt to retain power by postponing her coronation, actually ends up showing greater vulnerability. The actors playing the Prime Ministers, verge on caricatures at times, but the audience still lapped up great impersonations of Tony Blair and Maggie Thatcher.
By the end, its evident Elizabeth II has been put through the proverbial political wringer over the years, yet has kept her composure throughout. The dialogue is surprisingly witty despite the occasional tear and burst of heated disagreement. Yet considering the myriad of the Queen’s political experiences though, the play is quite light on political issues.
A narrator and delicate musical interludes accentuate the drama as one meeting and time period flows into another. And the design of the show feels suitably ceremonious with guards at the interval and a gorgeously regal Buckingham Palace set that features a long mid-stage corridor that seems to intentionally offer the same illusion of depth as the meetings at hand.
An actress playing the younger Elizabeth gives dimension to her inner voice, though this does detract at times from the main drama, with the strongest element of the play being the fact that over time we see the building of emotional bonds chipping away at royal formalities.
By Sophia Shluger
The Audience runs at the Apollo Theatre until 25 July. Tickets from £22.50. Londonist saw the show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 08 May 2015