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National Theatre Live: The Audience

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by John Andrew (subscribe)
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Helen Mirren channels the Queen again

After seeing Helen Mirren in "The Queen" I was looking forward to meeting her regal persona in "The Audience".

Nor was I disappointed. Without trying to be a mirror image of the Queen, she captures many of her mannerisms the cut-crystal vowels, the fleeting but engaging smile, the focused attention on her prime minister, the friendliness which contains its own reserve.

Helen Mirren's role is enhanced by a most convincing wardrobe, and some astonishingly slick costume changes.

We meet all but three of her Prime Ministers no Tony Blair this time, no Alec Douglas Home, and no Edward Heath. Peter Morgan combines awareness of the personalities and background of said politicians, and of the various crises in which they find themselves to imagine what might have been said during the weekly meetings which the Queen has had with her current Prime Minister.

As the Queen gains experience, her manner changes, from awe of the dominant yet deferential Churchill, to courteous but devastating cross-examination of an ill at ease Antony Eden on what and when and with whom the decision to invade Suez had been made.

Peter Morgan subscribes to the school which believes that Margaret Thatcher and the Queen did not warm to one another. The scene where Thatcher has just read one of the few alleged leaks from the Palace, suggesting that the Queen disapproves of Thatcher's approach to the poor, and to the Commonwealth is electric and beautifully scripted. It alone was worth the price of the cinema ticket.

Harold Wilson demonstrates his formidable memory, and gently teases the Queen for being a closet "lefty". As Wilson becomes ill, we have one of the most moving scenes in the play, as the Queen bids farewell to someone who was clearly a favourite.

As David Cameron is launched into a prosy exposition of an arcane policy decision the Queen's head nods and settles into the repose of a silent sleep.

This play allows us to explore, and if we are old enough, to remember pivotal moments of history, filtered through the interaction of the ambitious leaders who endeavour to control and react to them and the woman who has met everyone there is to meet, and knows the background to six decades of struggle.
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Why? To imagine living history
When: 6th - 11th July
Phone: 61 3 9826 9077
Where: Dendy and Palace Cinemas
Cost: $25
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