Quality cast in a spellbinding play

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IT’S barely a year since The King’s Speech hoovered up the Oscars and now David Seidler’s original play which inspired the film is enjoying its world premiere during a national tour which reached Nottingham’s Theatre Royal this week. It can only be described as an unqualified success.

The story centres on the abdication of King Edward VIII (David) in 1936 for the love of Wallis Simpson, which thrusts the Duke of York, his younger brother Bertie, into the spotlight as King George VI.

With a speech impediment, the new King finds difficulty in public speaking, particularly on the outbreak of the Second World War.

In a room at Harley Street, his wife Elizabeth has arranged for him to meet the maverick Australian speech therapist and failed actor Lionel Logue. So begins a break with Royal Protocol and an unconventional journey to correct the King’s stammer.

Fears that the production might be reduced to basically two men in a room are quickly dispelled. Charles Edwards as Bertie and Jonathan Hyde (Logue) are outstanding, poles apart in social status but developing a relationship that eventually flourishes into friendship.

Bertie’s anguish and feelings of sheer hopelessness and Logue’s mischievous sense of humour provide some delightful moments and revolving scene shifts propel the story along to introduce other principals in the Abdication Crisis.

Emma Fielding is a supportive Queen Elizabeth and Joss Ackland adds gravitas as George V. Daniel Betts as David and Lisa Baird (Wallis) also do well.

Then there are the major politicians, Ian McNeice as a rather too plump 1930s Churchill but otherwise excellent as the then-backbencher who progresses from devout monarchist to eventually share the view of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (David Killick) that abdication is inevitable.

Churchill’s scenes with Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury (Michael Feast) provide some moments of comedy and film backdrops (the funeral of George V, Bertie’s coronation and Hitler’s rants) add to the authenticity.

Logue’s relationship with his wife Myrtle (Charlotte Randle) is beautifully done, a contrast to the dreadful snobbery so evident in the high places of the time.

A spellbinding evening, provided by a quality cast which thoroughly earned its curtain calls.

The King’s Speech can be seen at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Saturday, February 18.