Though the spectres of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush haunt the first moments of the play, and never truly leave the stage, Adrian Noble’s direction allows the play’s central themes to flourish at a brisk pace, setting the sad and perilous state of the monarchy up against the dark and uncertain future with an exceptional central performance from Charles Edwards whose external timidity and volcanic internal anger are perfectly balanced as he is buffeted between duty and desire. His transformation, the discovery of his voice, is deftly handled with a sympathetic and unforgiving air and succeeds despite the fact that most of the people in the audience will have seen the story, heard the lines play out before.
Seidler takes the opportunity to show us more of the relationship between Logue and his homesick wife, adding pathos and a duality with regards to the sacrifice being made by both men, both anchored to England and, in the end, to each other. Jonathan Hyde brings out the end assured charm of Logue with a devilish energy which never overwhelms the central partnership and while the private moments between the two, as well as they and their wives, are a source of the tiny, detailed evolution of the man who wouldn’t be King it is the public appearances which are given a gravitas on stage.
Joss Ackland’s King George V was a highlight, and somehow Ian McNiece took the role of Churchill beyond parody and with Michael Feast’s brazen Archbishop of Canterbury give a more defined political element to the play which adds another dimension to the oncoming threat of war as well as the unsteady ground on which walks the new King. In the end I was far more moved than I expected to be and any familiarity you have with Tom Hooper’s film only adds to the enjoyment of this sensitive and moving portrayal of a man carrying out his duty, his sentence, word by word, his voice getting stronger all the time.
The King’s Speech is currently playing at Wyndham’s Theatre, go here for more details.