Magazine article Variety

Rich Historical Context Adds Sparklte to 'Speech'

Magazine article Variety

Rich Historical Context Adds Sparklte to 'Speech'

Article excerpt


Wyndhafn'sTteater, London; 750 seats; £52.50 ($84) top

Director: Adrian Notate; Cast Chartes Edwards, Jonathan Hyde, Emma Fleidling

Rich historical context adds sparkle to 'Speech'

On the face of it, "The King's Speech" would appear to be the ultimate in cynical deja vu - except that David Seidlerfe play predates his Oscar-winning screenplay. Those wanting a wholly different take on the now-celebrated story of King George VI, aka Bertie, overcoming his stammer may be disappointed, but Seidlerfe stage version offers fuller historical and political background to the story. Led by Charles Edwards in commanding form in the CoUn Firth role, the stately production is handsome in every way.

Although the script was written for the stage, its weakest element is its reliance on exposition. The play runs chronologically through the real-life events from the dying days of George V (Joss Ackland) through the political chicanery surrounding Edward VITs abdication crisis to Bertie's accession to the throne and the outbreak of World War II.

To explain all that from multiple perspectives, Seidler writes innumerable short scenes - some only as long as a mere exchange of information. Onscreen, the use of cutting, multiple locations, camerawork and, especially, reaction shots in closeup can divert attention from the information overload. Designer Anthony Ward's solution is to keep everything moving. His sets are pared to a suggestive minimum - a couple of evocative period chairs here, a table there - and has them picked out by Mark Henderson's pools of light against a heavy black framed scrim on a turntable working overtime.

Whirled round into view, the actors, as elegantly dressed as the sets, deliver precisely what is expected of them. One of the gains is the character of Myrtle (Charlotte Rändle), wife to unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue - a nicely authoritative Jonathan Hyde in the role created by Geoffrey Rush. Barely a presence in the movie, here she is seriously unhappy. She counterpoints Logues position and also underlines the fact that she and Logue are Australians and therefore outsiders in rigorously class-bound Britain.

The weak character of, and risks surrounding, Bertie's brother Edward Vu! (suitably slimy Daniel Betts) and his dangerous Nazi sympathies are also fleshed out. Discussions with Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) reveal more of what was at stake over his insistence upon marrying the notorious American divorcee Wallis Simpson. …

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