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The King’s Speech

Malvern Theatres has been showing The King’s Speech this week – the play of the film which was such a big hit a few years ago. I really wanted to go, but still don’t feel up to a late night out at the moment, and I’m busy this weekend so can’t go for my usual option of a Saturday matinee. However, I’ve got tons of hours in hand, and managed to get my latest milestone report at work finished by lunch-time today, leaving me with an unexpectedly free afternoon. So I decided to phone the Box Office to see if there were any standby tickets available for the mid-week matinee, and if so to take the afternoon off as time off in lieu.

I managed to get a seat about 2/3 the way back in the stalls, for a very good price using my Theatre membership card. I am really glad I made the effort to get to the play, as it was excellent. Jason Donovan played the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, and he was superb. I never thought I’d say that about someone I still associate with Neighbours, but he has turned into a very good stage actor. Raymond Coultard played Bertie/King George VI with just the right mix of anger, frustration, unhappiness, dread, and destiny. Queen Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother) was appropriately regal and yet clearly desperate to get her husband the help he needed. The supporting actors were uniformly excellent, with a particularly unpleasant and scheming Archbishop of Canterbury.

The play started rather oddly, with Bertie (then the Duke of York) in his underwear being dressed and given his breakfast and morning newspaper by a phalanx of obsequious courtiers. It really made you realise that here was a man who lived in a completely different world to most people – and a very claustrophobic and stifling world at that. That was pointedly compared with Lionel Logue’s apartment, with washing being dried in front of the fire and books everywhere.

I had really enjoyed the film, which I thought was well deserving of its Oscars. And in its own way, the play was just as good. I knew the story, of course, having seen the film, so the plot wasn’t a surprise. But it was extremely gripping, and the whole audience was willing Bertie to conquer his stammer and give the vital morale-building speech to the nation as the world descended into war. It was an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable production, and I’m very pleased I managed to find a way to get to see it.