Whilst the majority of people are more familiar with the movie, The King’s Speech is a very moving piece of theatre without being overly sentimental.
Written and adapted by David Seidler, it strikes a great balance between strong character real life drama and a privileged royals friendship with an Aussie commoner.
The set design is very simple yet superbly dramatic, with seamless scene changes and transitional states, everything was very smooth and flows elegantly.
Raymond Coulthard gives a superb performance as is excellent as King George VI (or Bertie as he was affectionately known in royal circles) His portrayal of his stammer is commendable and it is played at the perfect level. He portrays a shy, stiff in total contrast to his older more frivolous brother David, who’s love affair with Wallis Simpson brings down his short reign and forced abdication, thrusting his brother into the the limelight he never wanted.
His wife Elizabeth, (later Queen Elizabeth) played by Claire Lams, finds help for her husband and, after scanning the newspaper ads section, she finds herself on Harley Street consulting failed actor and untrained speech therapist Lionel Logue. With a thoroughly unorthodox approach Logue (Donovan) works to help the prince conquer his demons.
The men’s relationship is uneasy, fractured, initially embarrassing and exceptionally unconventional. Logue is a typical Aussie with little respect for royal protocol while Bertie struggles with commonplace behaviour. The mis-matched pair fit together perfectly.
Coulthard, jaw firmly keeping a royal stiff upper lip in place with anger and defiance throughout, keeps the stammer and nervous tics under control to deliver an impressive and restrained performance.
At one point Bertie, now King George and preparing for his coronation, dances furiously around the room while shouting out a string of expletives. He would be unlikely to score highly on Strictly but it brought the house down.
Jason Donovan’s is superb and perfectly cast as Lionel giving a career best performance. During the past few years, he has put away the glitz and song-sheets from starring in a string of stage musicals, to mature into a top class character actor. His Australian persona is obviously a comfortable place for him but he has the correct amount of empathy and strength required for the role.
There is also a superb cameo performance by Nicholas Blane as Winston Churchill, who forms an unlikely comedy double act with the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the pair pass judgement on the failings of the monarchy.
Strong ensemble work is also seen in the unfolding of the story leading up to the empowering speech that Bertie must deliver in the country’s darkest hour as Britain goes to war against Nazi Germany.The Kings speech to the nation is incredibly moving and a fitting finale.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening at the theatre with stunning acting performances.
Playing at the Opera House 30 March- 04 April
Buy tickets from AGT Tickets here