BWW Review: ASB Season of THE AUDIENCE at ASB Waterfront Theatre
The brilliance of Auckland Theatre Company's production of "The Audience" by Peter Morgan can be attributed to its outstanding performers and production team.
"The Audience" is an unexpected experience of an unrelatable life becoming relatable; humanity meeting humanity.
Where many scripts support and nurture the performers, this one challenges and taunts, almost daring to make the dialogue, interesting and dynamic.
The theatrical value weighs heavily on talent both individual and collaborative; making refined nuances of timing and delivery, well, crucial.
Deep inside Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II has held an 'audience'; a weekly one-on-one meeting with her prime minister. From Winston Churchill through to David Cameron, we witness a slice of these interactions between Queen and PM and get a picture of what life is like for her.
Each cast member rises to the challenge of the script under the skillful direction of Colin McColl.
A life and rhythm is breathed into the dialogue cleverly transgressing beyond the human desire to see what we're not privy to, to a place we were not expecting; a place of relationship.
My engagement with this story and historical knowledge told me that the characters were represented through an artful capture of mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. However I needed confirmation from one who would know. Publicist and friend Carin Newbould who hails from England verified that the PM's were authentically portrayed. She was impressed particularly by the avoidance of lampooning and caricature.
Spitting image they were not but clever they were in delivering the walk and the talk.
Theresa Healey is sublime as the Queen. The play is not chronological making Healy's job even more challenging but she carries it off to perfection. As an aside, those who are out back involved in the costume and make- up changes have co-ordinated a slick team. They have one heck of a task.
Healy's performance is literally a series of thousands of very clever moments of pause, poise, pronunciation, presence, posture and piquant delivery. These moments come together unfolding a subtle but sure revelation of a human being; a story of a young girl of little worldly experience and education who is courageous and constant in her vocation throughout her life to 'be' the Queen of England .
Not only do we see The Queen in 'private meetings' but we get a picture of her thoughts as she wanders back into her childhood reflecting on life before her coronation; a time when she was simply herself.
Unlike the nosey neighbour we are given permission to look by The Equerry (Paul Barrett). Barrett sets the tone of the seriousness of his role contrasting it cleverly with wry humour. We feel secure with him; that it's ok for a peek and he's going to reveal a few tid-bits of life in the palace. He successfully breaks the fourth wall and brings us on in.
The bar is set high in the standard of PM portrayal starting with a sensational delivery of Winston Churchill by Ian Mune. It's disconcerting wondering whether the others will deliver, but deliver they do, with many playing more than one role. Churchill's attempts to intimidate the Queen are not unexpected but the smart way she beats him at his own game is classy.
Roy Ward's John Major was instantly recognisable but then we were taken by surprise later on as he appears as a sinister Anthony Eden slithering and slimey in his explanation of the Suez Crisis and failing to fool the Queen that he had not been dealing dirty cards. Theatrically superb!
Fumbling bumbling Harold Wilson (Cameron Rhodes) reaches beyond the 'rules' into a more intimate friendship with the Queen. He's great.
Adam Gardiner's David Cameron brings more than a laugh or two as he cuddles into his seat for a chat with the Queen. Gardiner also dishes up a fine and totally suitable Tony Blair. If that wasn't enough he appears as Ceil Beaton and a security guard.
Hera Dunleavy had her work cut out for her chasing the young 'Lillibet' as her Nanny and if that wasn't enough she switches her Scottish accent for British one to take on Margaret Thatcher. The overtones of disdain between Queen and PM cut an icy air, colder than Wilson's complaints of the Scottish weather.
Mark Wright's Gordon Brown wins favour right from his first expression and he slips out of costume, makeup and persona to take on the roles of the unpopular James Callaghan, a Security Man and Private Secretary.
Natahalie Morris is a recent graduate of Toi Whakaari and she is at ease sharing the stage with some of our finest talent. The freely expressive young Elizabeth or Lillibet as she was known sheds a light on the heaviness of the burden that the older Elizabeth lives within. Writer Peter Morgan gets a tick for the timing of Lillibet. Morris has the tilt of her head, the precise pronunciation and is the whole package.
The sumptuous set is suitably static, illuminating the illusion of grandeur; royally red and regal, large works of authentic art; a wall-less room steeped in history and sparsely decorated with the finest.
Costuming is on point as is the lighting and sound; all supporting the outstanding cast.
I want to see it again.
ASB Season of
ASB Waterfront Theatre