By Danny Humby
Peter Morgan’s brilliant play imagines the weekly audiences between the Queen and her Prime Ministers. It was first staged in 2013 and revived in 2015. This is the first regional production, adding to NST City’s creative programming and with the good fortune to be on in the very month that The Queen’s thirteenth Prime Minister resigned from office.
Faye Castelow as Queen Elizabeth is fantastic. We see her age through subtle physical movements which reveal how she feels about each person through the simplest of looks. It is a remarkable performance which captures the essence of the woman who complains of being seen as “a postage stamp with a pulse”. Paul Kemp as all of her male PM’s is a tour de force. Through costume changes, and different use of his physique and voice, he successfully plays a variety of different PMs, including a charming Harold Wilson and a very grumpy Winston Churchill.
Sam Hodges directs the play and makes bold staging decisions with the help of his designer Rosanna Vize to emphasise the nature of the relationship between Prime Ministers and the Queen. The traverse stage ensures that we constantly sense the feeling the protagonists must have of always being under watchful public scrutiny and the travelator means the Queen is faced in her private audience room with a conveyor belt of Ministers going back to her first in 1953. This fresh new staging whilst interesting at times sometimes distracts from the excellent central performances.
This is a great play that appeals to all, those who know little about politics will get a lot out of it, as well as though who lived through each Prime Ministers reign. It has great comedy moments, and also very sad moments. For me, it ticks all the boxes of a perfect play.
The Audience runs until the 22nd June at NST City, Southampton.