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Prime ministers come and go – 12 of them over the last six decades - but throughout that time Queen Elizabeth II has remained a constant, holding completely confidential, un-minuted weekly meetings with the current incumbent.


Only the participants will ever know what was really said, but having scored a huge cinema hit with The Queen which heavily featured Tony Blair, writer Peter Morgan has now turned his attention to those private meetings with a batch of the other PMs, imagining the exchanges that might have taken place behind closed doors at Buckingham Palace.

Once again Helen Mirren plays the monarch – and she does it superbly, aging from a pre-coronation 27 year old to well into her eighties, her voice, her shape, her deportment accurately pinpointing various stages in  the sovereign’s reign. 

Costume and wig changes are accomplished (often on set) with astonishingly seamless fluidity in Stephen Daldry’s immensely entertaining production, shedding or adding decades in moments.

Morgan eschews a chronological path (and briefly shifts the location to Balmoral where Richard McCabe’s Harold Wilson – Labour and possibly her favourite? - indulges in a cigar rather than his trademark pipe) but throughout he portrays HM as an exceptionally well-informed woman, isolated by her status and, whilst constitutionally constrained from actually telling her elected subject what to do, making her views known with economic subtlety and a dry wit.

One PM is dismissed in a sentence, others don’t even merit a mention, but (among others) there’s a distinctly frosty handbag to handbag encounter with Maggie Thatcher, a sympathetic one with Gordon Brown, an early meeting with an elderly Winston Churchill and a later one with a make-up wearing David Cameron which – perhaps the ultimate insult - sends the Queen to sleep. 

Even if politics aren’t your forte, it all makes for a hugely enjoyable evening and, with the added ingredient of a couple of enthusiastic corgis, has all the hallmarks of a sell-out success

Gielgud,
Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6AR
Piccadilly Circus tube
Until 15th June
£10.00 - £59.00
theaudienceplay.com

 

Photo: Johan Persson


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The Audience - theatre review: Starring Helen Mirren at the Gielgud theatre, London
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