‘The King’s Speech’ @ Nottingham Theatre Royal

Whether you are a lecturer or student, old or young, your own voice and the need to be heard is still the same. Prior to being crowned king, George VI was never taken seriously. Suffering from a speech impediment, he was ridiculed both publicly and privately and had terrible self-esteem. Aided by charismatic quack Lionel Logue, “Bertie” attempts to overcome his speech impediment and win the hearts of the British people at a time when England was on the brink of war with Germany.

Charles Edwards is breath-taking in the lead role and gives a performance worthy of his predecessor, Colin Firth. The key to the film’s success was the chemistry between Lionel Logue and the King, which is aptly reconstructed on stage. Charles Edwards and Jonathon Hyde are brilliant together and allow the audience to witness the growth and change in their relationship as the play progresses. They are funny and have little in common, (save for building model airplanes) but form a unique bond for two people who have lived and will go on to live very different lives.

Emma Fielding plays the future Queen consort to George VI, Elizabeth, a strong-willed persona who is infinitely supportive of her husband and duty-bound. In a similar manner, a stubborn Mrs Logue, played by Charlotte Randle, is prickly on their first encounter, but she too sacrifices her dreams for those of her husband. In the beginning, Myrtle Logue wants out of England to return to their homeland of Australia. Presumptuous and stubborn, she bemoans and belittles Lionel’s reasons to stay (to become an actor), but she eventually succumbs to the idea of staying in England by the end of the play. Her character, a true Aussie, gives an insight into the prejudices within England at this time’ at one point she is fired simply for being Australian.

Not everyone is as happy to see Bertie succeed. The Archbishop of Canterbury (Michael Feast) tries at every opportunity to gain power, wanting to relive the “good old days” when the Church had much more influence, to which quick-witted Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) replies that most members of the clergy in those times met a sticky end. In contrast to the blockbuster, the play includes additional humorous details such as the lethal dosage of morphine given to King George V in order to ensure his death made the morning paper, or the embarrassing incident when the Royal crown fell off his coffin.  As the curtain fell, and with the rapturous applause that followed, one may confidently predict this play has the potential for West End success.

Set-wise, a revolving frame with electronically movable props make every scene change slick, polished and perfectly timed. The frame doubles up as a projector screen showing ‘real-life’ black and white image reels of speeches, coronations, (even those of Hitler) which give a real historical insight into life at this time.

The King’s Speech was originally conceived as a play and it’s easy to see why. It is witty, funny and a powerful insight into one of the greater tales of British history, too often overshadowed by that of Edward and Wallis Simpson. The casting is brilliantly done, each actor and actress bringing years of experience to their performance. Enthusiastic and full of energy, their vibrancy transcends to the audience. The message of the play is simple: value the importance of your own voice; if you don’t, others certainly won’t.

Eleanor Boddie

The Kings Speech is on at Nottingham Theatre Royal until the 18th of February, and will continue to tour the country until mid March

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