The King’s Speech

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King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

23/05/15

The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, has a reputation for being beautiful. “If you like the Lyceum,” several friends have told us, “just wait until you see the King’s.” And, to be fair, the building is gorgeous: all perfectly preserved Art Deco woodwork, and a frankly overgenerous serving of boxes, with a staggering eighteen ornate (and empty) loges dominating the auditorium. So, yes, the theatre is lovely to look at.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love the play. The story was too familiar from the over-praised film (I enjoyed the film, I really did, but it felt more like a decent TV drama than the Oscar-winning heavyweight it was lauded as), and the subject too unsympathetic. It’s hard to empathise too much with such a vastly over-privileged man.

The performances were good: Jason Donovan made an appealingly irreverent Lionel; Claire Lams a wonderfully acerbic Queen. But the dialogue was plodding, and the direction lacked the lightness of touch that elevated the film. Set changes, for example, were more complex than necessary, interrupting the flow and slowing the pace. The simplicity of the wooden wall panels was negated by the constant shifting of superfluous props: the location was clear as soon as a door slid open; I didn’t need three desks, a bookshelf and a couple of armchairs to tell me where we were.

I liked the way the political machinations were writ large in this play, and how Lionel Logue’s refreshing lack of agenda was shown to contrast so heavily with the naked, ugly self-interest of the clergy, the government and the royal family itself. But, overall, this was not for me.

2.3 stars

Susan Singfield

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