Jan 31

Theatre Calgary’s ‘The Audience’ has it all

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

Peter Morgan’s film The Queen was written in 2006 and starred Hellen Mirren. Morgan, wanting to continue his examination of Queen Elizabeth II, adapted the film for the stage and renamed it The Audience. It premiered in the West End in 2013, with Mirren reprising her role as Queen. Theatre Calgary has elected to produce The Audience in its theatre season and features a mix of local and nationally based artists, this production proves to be nuanced and thoughtful, providing an insightful look into the life of the Queen and the many audiences she has held with many Prime Ministers.

The play tells of Queen Elizabeth II (Seana McKenna) and the weekly audiences she holds with all of the Prime Ministers, from the time that she becomes Queen in 1952 to mostly present day. The production plays around with time so that events do not unfold in a sequential order and it’s fascinating to watch the Queen drastically from scene to scene. The first Prime Minister that the Queen meets with is John Major (Kevin Rothery) and throughout the play we meet Winston Churchill (Ian Deakin), Harold Wilson (Graham Percy), Gordon Brown (Declan O’Reilly), Anthony Eden (Stephen Hair), Margaret Thatcher (Kelli Fox), David Cameron (Patrick Creery) and Tony Blair (Trevor Rueger). This set up would seem rather dull, but the narrative is interspersed with interactions with the Queen’s younger self (Zasha Rabie) and her nanny Bobo McDonald (Lesley Galbecka) who took care of her growing up. A constant is also Equerry (Christopher Hunt) an officer of the Royal household who tends to the Queen.

McKenna is impeccable as Queen Elizabeth II, as she is measured and sometimes wry in her delivery and always charming. Morgan’s writing along with director Miles Potter allows the dry humour to pop out of the script. The Queen delivers hilarious one-liners and is laugh out loud funny. One Prime Minister confesses to the Queen that he only passed 3 of his 10 O-levels, and her response after a pause is to comment on what fine hands the country is in. We get to see the Queen as the constant throughout the years, as the Prime Ministers change constantly. We see the same rhetoric used in international conflicts that result in war, and how it comes back full circle, again and again. We see the genuine conflict that the Queen experiences and how she is not meant to show it. Ultimately, nothing gets past the Queen.

The play is full of great lines and one of the best relations is between the Queen and Harold Wilson. He and the Queen seem to develop the most amicable of relationships and there is such warmth between Percy and McKenna. Also of note is Hair as Anthony Eden, as he is impatient and exceedingly polite while leaking out that he’d rather not have to let the Queen know of how he is choosing to run the country. Fox’s Thatcher is also of note as it’s quite difficult to play the cold, commanding Prime Minister with conviction.

Patrick Clark’s set and costume design are quite majestic with a large chandelier hanging in the middle of the stage, and the walls lined with gold etching, while all of the Queen’s costuming is sophisticated and majestic.

Theatre Calgary’s production of The Audience is a great show. It’s got a little bit of everything, - the history, the humour, the great cast, and the emotional pull- to make it worth the time.

Theatre Calgary’s The Audience runs until February 18, 2017. More information is available online.

Related Posts

Previous post:

Next post: