Review: National Theater Live: “The Audience” – Hellen Mirren wears the crown once again.

Helen Mirren: A Queen Once Again
Helen Mirren: A Queen Once Again

Sunday the 8th September brought a live recording of London’s award winning production “The Audience” to Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor. Starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, written by Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland, The Queen, Frost/Nixon).

The play took place in the private audience room in Buckingham Palace, London, where the Queen meets with her Prime Minister every Tuesday evening to be brought up to speed on current issues. These audiences take place under strict confidence of secrecy and the actual course of events and conversations have not been recorded. Peter Morgan wrote this production to investigate what might have transpired behind closed doors between the Queen and her twelve different PM’s over the years. He based his writing off of known information; historical events, political conflicts, state issues etc.

The Audience is Morgan’s second script featuring Queen Elizabeth II. He admits he can be somewhat generous and kind to her as a historical figure, the Queen written in this production was very likable, human, silently opinionated and, naturally, refined and polite. There is little, if any, criticism written into this representation of Queen Elizabeth, she always comes out on top in each meeting, dispute, conflict or sarcastic interaction.

Helen Mirren won London’s Oliver Award (the equivalent of a Tony) for Best Actress in a Play, for her role in The Audience. She has mastered the nuances of Queen Elizabeth’s movements, speech, facial expressions and general carriage. It is amazing to watch her act in this production. There is always a different atmosphere surrounding live performances, recorded or otherwise, in comparison with feature films. The videographer of this National Theater production did a wonderful job of capturing essential physical movements without making these details obtuse or allowing these specific focal points to detract from the plot, or the other actors.

As someone who is interested in, but has little understanding or knowledge of, British history and the Royal family, I was captivated by the historical relevance of this play. I praise the Michigan Theater for bringing this production to Ann Arbor, Peter Morgan for his wit and intelligence, Helen Mirren for her skills as an actress and grace as a woman, as well as the other actors for creating such a wonderful story and executing it with such pride.

Michigan Theater will hold more screenings of National Theater Live productions through out the fall, the next performance will be Shakespeare’s “Othello” Sunday, October 13 at 7:00 PM.

Preview: “The Audience” – National Theater Live – Helen Mirran

What: “The Audience” – a play
Where: Michigan Theater on Liberty
When: Sunday the 8th of September 7pm and Tuesday the 10th of September 7pm
Tickets: $22

Coming out of the West End in London, Helen Mirran (The Queen, Red, The Debt, Hitchcock) and Peter Morgan (director of The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon) come together once again for a performance about Queen Elizabeth II. Bound to be another spectacular production with Mirran as the head of the British crown.

Michigan Theater’s Website has this to say about the production:

For 60 years Elizabeth II has met each of her 12 Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace – a meeting like no other in British public life – it is private. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said. Not even to their spouses. The Audience breaks this contract of silence – and imagines a series of pivotal meetings between the Downing Street incumbents and their Queen. From Churchill to Cameron, each Prime Minister has used these private conversations as a sounding board and a confessional – sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive.

From young mother to grandmother, these private audiences chart the arc of the second Elizabethan Age. Politicians come and go through the revolving door of electoral politics, while she remains constant, waiting to welcome her next Prime Minister.

The Audience reunites writer Peter Morgan and Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren following their collaboration on the critically-acclaimed movie sensation The Queen.

The Audience is directed by Academy Award-nominated director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) and presented in the West End by Matthew Byam Shaw for Playful Productions, Robert Fox and Andy Harries.