Reviews for Friends #20: The King’s Speech at The REP, Birmingham
“Warm and entertaining, but lacking the rogue in Logue.”
In a co-production between The REP and Chichester Festival Theatre, The REP’s Artistic Director Roxana Silbert has pulled off a warm and sincere take on the much-loved play by David Seilder.
The King is dead, the world stands on the brink of war and heir to the British throne Edward VIII, known to friends and family as David (prepare for royal confusion with further names within names), is causing controversy in his affair with married American socialite (and Nazi sympathiser) Wallis Simpson. As David’s antics continue his brother Bertie (to be King George VI…) is called into the spotlight to take the reigns. But Bertie had always shied away from the public eye, afflicted with an embarrassing stammer. In a desperate bid to help ‘cure’ the future king, his wife calls upon maverick Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue - surprisingly cast but charmingly played by Jason Donovan. Straight-talking and somewhat uncouth, Logue regularly offends Bertie and his wife - but can he empower Bertie to rise to the challenge in his country’s darkest hour?
Raymond Coulthard is superb as b-b-Bertie and his depiction of a stammer is frankly breathtaking - although, the clipped speech of an English royal is somewhat lost in this process. Helpfully, this mantle is picked up to the nines by Claire Lam in the role of his wife, Elizabeth - who, coincidentally, claims a striking physical resemblance to the character. Jason Donovan is controlled and engaging as Lionel, but I must admit I would have liked to have seen - and was expecting - a little more bite. Jamie Hinde is deliciously boorish as King Edward VIII - perfectly cast.
The set, as ever at The REP, is a joy and the microphone is used to powerful effect in a cleverly simple manner. Looming in the air as a constant threat, and ominously lowering without warning, it almost has its own daunting persona - like an extra member of the cast.
It is always a difficult task to bring to life a well-known tale, particularly whilst an Oscar winning film version remains in the hearts and minds of the public - it takes a brave actor to follow the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. But the cast certainly rose to the challenge in this charming - if a little pc - production.