The Audience (2013 play)
|Written by||Peter Morgan|
|Date premiered||15 February 2013|
|Place premiered||Gielgud Theatre
|Setting||Buckingham Palace Balmoral Castle|
The Audience is a play by the British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan. The play centres on weekly meetings, called audiences, between Queen Elizabeth II, played by Dame Helen Mirren, and her prime ministers and premiered in the West End in 2013, at the Gielgud Theatre. A Broadway production opened in 2015, also starring Mirren. A West End revival is playing in London in 2015 starring Dame Kristin Scott Thomas in the lead role.
The Audience is centred on the weekly audiences given by Queen Elizabeth II to prime ministers from her accession in 1952 to the present day. Three Prime Ministers are omitted from the play; Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas Home and Edward Heath are not featured. Tony Blair originally did not feature in the play, but was added when the play transferred to Broadway, replacing James Callaghan who was excluded from subsequent productions. Advice regarding the political and historical content of the weekly audiences was provided by Professor Vernon Bogdanor (Emeritus Professor of Government at Oxford University) the former Tutor of David Cameron, Prime Minister from 2010 until 2016.
The Audience is written by British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan. Its premiere production opened in the West End at the Gielgud Theatre on 15 February 2013, with its press night on 5 March. The play featured Dame Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II; the actress had played the same role in the 2006 film The Queen, which was also written by Morgan. The play was directed by Stephen Daldry, with design by Bob Crowley, lighting design by Rick Fisher, sound by Paul Arditti, music by Paul Englishby and video design by Ian William Galloway. A typical West End performance ran two hours and 30 minutes, including one interval.
Following the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who is featured during the play's run, playwright Peter Morgan made a speech to the audience to mark her passing. The production was broadcast live to cinemas as part of National Theatre Live on 13 June 2013. The initial broadcast broke the record for most people watching a production live since the scheme began, with nearly 80,000 people watching in the UK and 30,000 people in North America. Further encore screenings were later broadcast.
The play began a limited Broadway engagement from 8 March to 28 June 2015, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, with previews from 14 February 2015. Helen Mirren reprises her role of Queen Elizabeth II in this production, alongside fellow original cast members Geoffrey Beevers, Michael Elwyn, Richard McCabe and Rufus Wright.
A West End revival began at the Apollo Theatre, opening on 5 May 2015, following previews from 21 April 2015, with Dame Kristin Scott Thomas as Queen Elizabeth II. For the 2015 production, the role of James Callaghan was removed to allow them to feature another former prime minister Tony Blair and the script was updated pending a General Election. Following the General Election on 7 May 2015, the scene featuring David Cameron meeting the Queen was updated to show Cameron had won a second term and showed the Queen asking him to form a Government. The Audience between Cameron and the Queen was changed several times over the 15 week run in the West End in keep up to date with current political events. After the general election results references were made to Nicola Sturgeon and the success of the SNP seats gained in Scotland taken from Labour. Other current events references made during the audience scene between the Queen and Cameron included the corruption scandal at FIFA and the Greek bailout debate known as "Grexit". During the last week of the run, a reference was made to newspaper articles displaying the Queen apparently making a Nazi salute in her youth and to the birthday of Prince George.
Awards and nominations
At the 2013 Olivier Awards, Helen Mirren received the best actress Olivier for her portrayal of the Queen, while Richard McCabe received the best supporting actor nod for his role as Harold Wilson. Mirren also received best actress at the Evening Standard Awards, although the win was surrounded in controversy after it was revealed she had been tied with another actress and critic Henry Hitchings had changed his vote following his first choice being moved into a new category. Three of the award's judges later resigned.
At the 2014 WhatsOnStage awards, voted for by theatregoers, Mirren won the award for best actress, Haydn Gwynne best supporting actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, and Peter Morgan best new play.
The 2015 Broadway production won the Tony Awards for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play (Mirren) and Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Play (Richard McCabe), and received a nomination for Best Costume Design of a Play (Bob Crowley).
In popular culture
The 'Traviata' model handbag by British designer Launer London received a surge in popularity and was subsequently re-issued by the brand following the use of one as a prop in The Audience both in the West End and on Broadway. It is the style often used by Queen Elizabeth II.
Principal roles and original cast
|Character||West End performer||Broadway performer||2015 West End performer|
|Queen Elizabeth II||Helen Mirren||Kristin Scott Thomas|
|John Major||Paul Ritter||Dylan Baker||Michael Gould|
|Gordon Brown||Nathaniel Parker||Rod McLachlan||Gordon Kennedy|
|Harold Wilson||Richard McCabe||Nicholas Woodeson|
|Winston Churchill||Robert Hardy (withdrew before press night for health reasons)
|Dakin Matthews||David Calder|
|Anthony Eden||Michael Elwyn||David Robb|
|Margaret Thatcher||Haydn Gwynne||Judith Ivey||Sylvestra Le Touzel|
|David Cameron||Rufus Wright||Mark Dexter|
|Tony Blair||N/A||Rufus Wright||Mark Dexter|
|James Callaghan||David Peart||Tony Ward||N/A|
|Equerry||Geoffrey Beevers||David Peart|
|Young Elizabeth||Bebe Cave
- Michael Billington, "The Audience – review" The Guardian (London), 5 March 2013
- Rentoul, John (27 January 2013). "Yes, Prime Ministers!". The Independent. London. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
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- Purcell, Carey. "A Royal Performance! The Audience, With Helen Mirren, Opens on Broadway Tonight" playbill.com, 8 March 2015
- "London Cast Members Will Join Helen Mirren on Broadway in The Audience". playbill.com. Playbill. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- "Peter Morgan's play will run concurrently in London and New York". whatsonstage.com. Whats On Stage. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- "Kristin Scott Thomas to star as the Queen in return of The Audience". theguardian.com. The Guardian. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
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- "Awards judges resign over Dame Helen Mirren 'fix'". bbc.co.uk/news. BBC News. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- "Controversy over Helen Mirren's Evening Standard theatre award after judges resign". theguardian.com. The Guardian. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- "WhatsOnStage 2014 Award Winners". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
- Gans, Andrew. "69th Annual Tony Awards Nominations Announced!" Playbill.com, April 28, 2015
- Friedman, Vanessa (9 April 2015). "When a Handbag Has a Starring Role". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
- "Images of Helen Mirren in 'The Audience' holding the Queen's signature Launer handbag". arenapal.com. Arenapal. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
- "Robert Hardy withdraws from Churchill role in Helen Mirren play". BBC. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.