Saturday, June 29, 2013


Last night I was riveted to the screen for two and a half hours of thrilling theater!  Yes, theater.  Sort of like the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series, the National Theater in London filmed and broadcast a live performance of The Audience starring Dame Helen Mirren...and a host of familiar and terrific British actors, among them Edward Fox, Richard McCabe, and Nathaniel Parker.  

Anything with Helen Mirren is almost always reason to run to the theater, be it movie or legitimate, and this is no exception.

The play is a new one by Peter Morgan, who wrote the script for The Queen, the multi-awarded movie with Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth II.  Seems Mr. Morgan is not finished with his monarch, whom he obviously loves and respects, for she is again the star.   Drama it is but not solely for I  laughed heartily out loud more times than I can count.  The title refers to the weekly Tuesday afternoon meetings the queen has with her prime ministers.  And we get to sit in on those meetings with eleven of the twelve that Queen Elizabeth has received in her sixty-year reign: Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, Anthony Eden, Margaret Thatcher, and others right up to Mr. Cameron.  

I didn't know a lot about British politics, so listening to the prime ministers vent and defend their positions and actions could have been a bore. No way!  Because the acting is so vibrant, the script so interesting, and the interaction between the monarch and her ministerrs is so real, touching, hilarious, and just damn engaging, I was right in there with them...all the way.

Portraying the queen, Helen Mirren dazzles as she gets older and younger right before our eyes, from her eighties to her twenties and back again.  Her weight goes up, and it goes down.  Her hair is white, then goes dark brown, then grey, then white again.  The wigs, the costumes, the shoes, the purses all ebb and flow with her.  The miracle is that Ms. Mirren never leaves the stage to change her appearance. The first change is made right before our eyes, and we can't for the life of us figure out how it actually happens!  That alone should get you to the theater!

Dame Helen is miraculous in her full-embodiment of Her Majesty: facial expressions, body language, posture, vocal nuances, walk, asides, and attitude, all of which change, too, according to her age and length of time in the job, as well as which prime minister she is sitting with at any given moment.  This has to be Mirren's signature role, and rightfully so.  Who else would even attempt this part after her?  

A bonus to seeing the play in a movie theater is that we get to watch interviews with Peter Morgan, the costume designers, and Dame Helen herself. Just when you have begun to  believe that she really is the queen, eighty years and all, Mirren blows you away in a hot pink skirt topped with a cream-colored cowl-neck sweater that slips off one shoulder, sporting her naturally blonde hair cut very short and very chic.  Vibrant, enthusiastic, engaged and engaging, and eternally sexy!  Nothing like Dame Helen!

Please visit the website for The Audience and roll around in the photos, the reviews, and anything else that tickles your fancy! The Audience