5-9 May 2015
Reviewed by Louise Platt
The King’s Speech started out as a movie script but writer David Seidler changed course about 70 pages in and continued it as a play. Most will either have seen or heard of the film adaptation (I have and loved it) but the stage production is currently touring the UK starring Raymond Coulthard as King George VI (Bertie) and Jason Donovan as Speech Therapist Lionel Logue in the lead roles. I was lucky enough to watch it at Milton Keynes theatre.
The play is set in the early to mid 1900s and tells the story of Bertie, second child of George V who is later crowned King George VI when his older brother Edward VIII abdicates in order to marry American Divorcee Wallis Simpson, and his struggle with a speech impediment.
Years before the constitutional crisis occurs we meet Australian aspiring actor and speech therapist Lionel Logue who has a new and alternative approach to dealing with stammers. Logue’s belief is that a stammer is not a physical impediment (as many have believed in the past) but has emotional roots and through this we are witness to Logue’s exploration of Bertie’s childhood and upbringing as a young Royal. Logue is not prepared to adhere to social mores where liaising with Royalty is concerned which proves entertaining but he is absolutely driven to help Bertie and we watch the relationship between these two men develop as they become very close friends.
Logue is able to help Bertie using his unique approach, which includes dancing, listening to music and swearing [note there are a lot of profanities in this play which are essential to the storyline].
We are given a real insight into how Bertie deals with his brother’s abdication and the horror he feels when faced with the prospect of becoming King. We witness his fear of public speaking, his lack of overall confidence and also the prejudice he faced among his advisors the Archbishop of Canterbury and Winston Churchill due to his perceived inability to address the Nation “correctly” (i.e. without stammering).
This play has humour and warmth, particularly with respect to two very different men from different backgrounds becoming close friends.
The stage set is a large curved oak wall covering the entire breadth of the stage with doors inset at two levels – ground and above. All the actors and actresses and props come through the doors which are used very cleverly depicting different rooms at different stages in the play. Everything is slick and choreographed with expertise. The costumes and props remains true to the era.
For those unfamiliar with the venue, the theatre is big and modern, located in the central part of Milton Keynes and very accessible with lots of parking (free after 6pm and on Bank Holidays). There is a choice of kiosks (with drinks and snacks) and a lovely Piano Bar serving drinks before the show and during the interval. The staff are always extremely helpful and welcoming.
I thoroughly enjoyed the King’s Speech. I thought the performance of all the actors and actresses was excellent, with special mention to the King’s Final Speech, which was outstanding.
Tickets cost from £11.90 to £37.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
The King’s Speech is at the Milton Keynes Theatre until 9 May 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ