Theatre Review: The King’s Speech

Theatre Review The Kings Speech

By Kerri Mackenzie, Arts Editor.

There is nothing more important or more powerful than words. Words can change the world. We remember speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. We all know the opening lines of the Gettysburg Address. Words can start a war or bring about peace. The King’s Speech is a play about many things; the struggle or being a Royal, class, politics, war but ultimately it is a play about words.
We are all familiar with the story. King Edward falls in love with the twice divorced American Wallis Simpson and so abdicates leaving the throne to younger brother Bertie (played by Raymond Coulthard), a much more suitable King. But there is just one problem. Bertie has a stammer and in the new age of radio broadcasts of speeches by the Monarch this is a bit of a problem. Adding to this already bad situation is the fact that upon King George V ascending the throne, Britain is at war with Germany. Hitler was a renowned public speaker. How could Bertie ever lead his nation against Hitler when he could not even give a rousing speech to his nation?
The play follows the story of Bertie as he attends speech therapy sessions with the highly unconventional Lionel Logue(played by actual Jason Donovan of Kylie and Jason fame), an Australian.  There are some real moments of comedy gold in the play and often I found myself laughing out loud but it was also heart-warming in some places and woefully sad in others.
It isn’t easy being a royal and poor old Bertie had a tough time of it as a kid, never being able to make friends and always having to behave in the proper manner. There is a real loneliness in Bertie. At first he is standoffish with Lionel, hiding behind his royal status and the pair fall out several times throughout the play. The most tear-jerking and heart-warming moment of the whole thing comes at the end when Bertie has just managed to successfully deliver a speech to the nation (thanks to Lionel) and when it is over he turns and shakes hands with Lionel, calling him his friend. By this point I was a blubbering wreck so I can’t really say how it ends but according to history King George V managed to deliver many speeches and became the father to Elizabeth II so it all worked out well in the end.
The set was very minimalist but this really worked in its favour as you could focus on the actors more rather than being distracted. Any props or set were used with a purpose rather than as dressing. Lionel creates model aeroplanes in his spare time and during one of his sessions, Bertie expresses a similar interest and the two bond. It is during this time that Bertie really and truly opens up to Lionel for the first time. At the end when King George V is addressing the nation after the outbreak of War, tiny model aeroplanes descend from the ceiling and it was so poignant and touching given the history of the model planes coupled with the bombings that would soon descend on Britain. The use of silence was also something worth noting. There was never any superfluous speech and everything that was said was meaningful. This made the silences and pauses all the more powerful. When the time comes for Bertie to give his speech the silence is so prolonged and filled with suspense that it is almost painful.

This was an incredible piece of theatre and if it comes back to Glasgow or Edinburgh than I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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