The King’s Speech at the Theatre Royal, Brighton

My review for the university newspaper: The Badger. (BADGER, BADGER, BADGER….MUSHROOM, MUSHROOM) 

Considering the recent release of the film adaptation of the play, it is hard to not draw a comparison to the works of the award winning actors: Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. The adaptation was so well received that it was nominated for various film awards around the world, where Firth won a Golden Globe for Best Actor as his part of Bertie (more known as King George VI to the clergy) and Geoffrey Rush won Best Supporting Actor at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) as his role as Lionel Logue.

 

It was evident that the film did influence some of the technical layouts of the play, the sheer number of set changes was incredible. Some, admittedly, were clever and allowed two scenes to run simultaneously, in turn creating a sense of flow to the play which would have probably not been achieved otherwise. But the appearance of props on the character’s cue went beyond clever to being purely pretentious, it was not entirely necessary and occasionally distracted one from the play itself.

 

Despite the difficulty to watch the play without scrutinizing it’s variations from Tom Hooper’s directions, I became absorbed by the relatively light-hearted deliverance of the same story. Being at the disadvantage of coming to the theatre with a tainted slate of expectation, I understood the film to be a dramatic and seldom struggle of a lonely individual. The play does tackle the relationship between Lionel and Bertie in a similar manner; and certainly does contain the same intensity of character development but it also shows Lionel as a more colourful, vibrant character. Hyde took full advantage of the live audience, allowing us to engage fully with Lionel’s sense of humour that brought a refreshing ease to tense situations. This allowed the audience to see how Lionel was able to crack Bertie’s defensive shell that he hid behind for most of his life, and of course the gradual formation of their invaluable friendship.

 

Edwards portrayed the struggle, anger and frustration faced by the Prince-to-come- King as convincingly as Firth did in the film. The minimalistic set (despite it’s technical nature) gave little distraction to Edwards emotional articulation of the King’s defensive nature after years of sheltered hardship behind what Queen Elizabeth described as the, “…gated royal fortress.” Hyde’s ability illustrate Lionel as he’s true easy-going self perfectly complimented Edwards’ Bertie. With such excellent interpretations of both characters from Hyde and Edwards, I believe that the relationship between Lionel and Bertie felt stronger and more sincere than what was developed on the silver screen by Rush and Firth.

 

Another positive variation of the play from the film was the greater emphasis of Hitler’s conquest within continental Europe. Churchill seemed to have a greater impact in the play than David’s unconventional love affair with Wallis Simpson; although it can be argued that the were both interlinked and led to the eventuality of Bertie becoming King George VI. Personally, the film bore too much significance upon David’s relationship with Simpson and did not clarify the political climate at the time, especially with the appeasement policy that Lord Chamberlain was following at the time. The play understood the political turbulence and made the audience understand that it too was an issue that the King as his duty had to address. In result, this added more stress and desire for him to speak ‘properly’ and inspire his people at a time when war was seemingly inevitable.

 

In conclusion, the play was brilliant. And like the film it did not fail to please, it in fact added another dimension which would not be logistically possible through the medium of film. I enjoyed the political undertones of the play bubbling underneath the character development successfully carried out by Edwards with aid of Hyde’s Lionel. The film shines a gloomy, darker light on Bertie’s life. In contrast, the play indicated that his stutter did not define him as an individual. It instead made the audience aware of his sense of responsibility, pride and bravery despite the ill-treatment he endured from his family.  

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