The Audience

The Audience is a witty, dry but ultimately very deep, incisive, intelligent, and emotionally satisfying dramady. This is the second major creative work involving the Queen by Peter Morgan, who also wrote the beautiful film The Queen, in which he portrayed the fallout of Princess Diana’s death and showed the Queen’s relationship with Tony Blair, and her family both of which were only mentioned in passing in this play. He is superb at realizing the depth of all the real people in his writing and should be commended. Helen Mirren gives a fantastic performance as the Queen of England. She is able to capture her biting wit perfectly, but is also able to portray her humanity and gives her a great deal of depth. All of the actors for the prime ministers are superb as well, particularly Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson, who is the prime minster we spend the most time with. The writing in this particular play is phenomenal. The dialogue practically sparkles with dry wit, for example, when the Queen is being asked why she had a tutor instead of going to boarding school:
“Do you think it was because you were female?”
“I still am last I checked.”

There is also a good deal of satire of all the prime ministers while still remaining very sympathetic to all of them, although due to the context of their scenes Thatcher and Eden are drawn in a much harsher light. However, the comedy while splendid pales in comparison to the inner drama. The play is in its own way very psychological, because it all takes place in the Queen’s mind as we see her various memories unfold. For example, the prime minster that the play theorises she liked the most, Harold Wilson, appears more than any of the others while James Callaghan who is considered extremely forgettable only appears once and then as part of David Cameron’s scene. One of the best uses of this effect is the scenes where the Queen has conversations with her younger self played wonderfully by Nell Williams. These scenes form a good deal of the play’s emotional centre as they allow us to see the Queen’s deepest thoughts and the emotions she would never show to anyone else.

If the Queen is the main focus, then Wilson is undoubtedly the secondary focus. Out of all the prime ministers he probably forms the deepest connection to the Queen. He is a very humorous character, but also very intelligent and at the very end of the play very sad as well. His last major scene is absolutely heartbreaking and still left a very strong effect on me after it was over. The entire play had a similar effect staying with the viewer for a very long time.


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