THE KING’S SPEECH: David Seider
Birmngham Rep in Association with Chichester Festival Theatre
Tkts: 0121 236 4455
Runs: Birmingham Rep till 7 March
2h 20 mins, inc one interval
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 28 February 2015
The two central performances are shining jewels in a tarnished crown
THE KING’S SPEECH is known to many of us now through the hit film. It’s common knowledge that the ‘film’ was spotted at a script-in-hand play reading. Here’s the play – changed in light of the film or not, we don’t know. Like the film, though, the story is incredibly moving, and told through the intimate and shifting relationship between the two lead characters.
This production ultimately succeeds because the story’s strong and because Raymond Coulthard and Jason Donovan (George VI and speech therapist Lionel Logue) both give stunning performances, you can virtually reach out and touch the relationship between them.
It feels, though, as if these two (and the rest of the strong acting company) are fighting against the production. It may be that the intimacy and the intensity of the story is lost in the big Rep space. Or it may be that director Roxana Silbert doesn’t catch the rhythm of the play – particularly at the beginning. For too long in the first half very short scenes are broken up by scene changes that take longer than the scenes – or at least it feels like that. The story moves in tiny fits and starts and we are deprived of emotional engagement. The life within the play leaks away through the gaps between scenes.
As the story moves forward, the scenes between George VI and Logan take hold. The play reaches out to us and touches us; we are genuinely moved. We watch Coulthard and Donovan create the fiery relationship between the two men, nicely colouring it with gentle humour, and we wish we could see more.
Strong performances all round. Claire Lams perfectly encapsulates the peculiar and awful distance of the British royals – with a perfect period RP accent, and Martin Turner turns in an uncomfortable and over-weaning Archbishop Cosmo Lang.
Tom Piper’s settings are a real disappointment. Long scene changes are bad enough, but all the repetition of dreary black – it’s so exhausting.
But Coulthard and Donovan . . . They make it all worthwhile.
King George VI: Raymond Coulthard
Queen Elizabeth: Claire Lams
Lionel Logue: Jason Donovan
Myrtle Logue: Katy Stephens
King George V / Stanley Baldwin: William Hoyland
Edward VIII: Jamie Hinde
Archbishop Cosmo Lang: Martin Turner
Winston Churchill: Nicholas Blane
Foot man: Jeremy Bennett
Footman: John Fagan
Wallis Simpson / Maid: Felicity Holbrooke
Director: Roxana Silbert
Set and Costume Designer: Tom Piper
Lighting Designer: Oliver Fenwick
Composer and Sound designer: Nick Powell
Voice and Dialect Coach: Stephen Kemble
Movement Director: Polly Bennett
Assistant Director: Scott Le Crass
Casting Director: Amy Ball and Jonathan Russell
Casting Coordinator: Alison Solomon