Helen Mirren being extraordinary, amazing acting, gorgeous costumes, and two corgis running around; what more do you need in a Broadway play? In reference to The Audience by Peter Morgan, absolutely nothing.
The Audience is about the relationship of Queen Elizabeth II and many of her Prime Ministers. Each week, the Queen and the Prime Minister meet in private to discuss the past week and what’s coming ahead for the United Kingdom. Throughout these meetings, the Queen attempts to guide her country through the Prime Minister. Even though these meetings are not presented chronologically, we still clearly see how the Queen changes throughout her long realm and how she deals with almost being a figurehead monarch.
Obviously one of the biggest draws of the play is the astonishing Helen Mirren, reprising the character of Queen Elizabeth II after playing her in the film, The Queen, and winning an Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA Award for the her extraordinary work there. So, obviously this is a character that Mirren knows down to her bones and the work shows. Mirren sails smoothly between different ages, from the optimistic sharp newly crowned queen to the warm grandmotherly presence of today’s Queen and every cheeky and sharp turn in between. It’s a masterclass in maintaining a character even through shifting physicalities and ages. Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II as if it were the easiest thing in the world, even though it most certainly is not.
Not to say that the play itself and the supporting characters are shadowed by Mirren’s mastery. Peter Morgan’s script deftly weaves through various time periods and draws parallels between each Prime Minister-including one particularly deft one between Sir Anthony Eden and Tony Blair and their reactions to problems in the Middle East. The subject matter of the play could be viewed as dull due to less skilled writers, but Morgan weaves the story so well that boredom is never even a question. The script is smart and sharp-Elizabeth remarks at one point “I’ve found all of my Prime Ministers to all be distinctly human.” This is true of the work of all the supporting characters who play Prime Ministers. Each one is a well-rounded interesting human being. Particularly praise goes out to Dakin Matthews as Winston Churchill and Judith Ivey as Margaret Thatcher for still creating fully rounded humans out of people that are considered icons.
A special note goes out to the amazing design work by Bob Crowley. The sets were beautifully austere and cozy when the time was needed. And the costumes were absolutely extraordinary. Each helped instantly set up the time period, which is needed in an non-linear show, and more than that, the costumes were simply beautiful. I actually gasped when the coronation gown was revealed, because it was so beautiful.
The Audience is a stunning play that fully engulfs any audience into its skilled hands. Do not miss this amazing piece of theatre! It is currently playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on West 45th Street.
Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Joan Marcus