Wednesday, 6 March 2013

An Evening With HM

queen hosp 03 13

So good to know that HM was well enough to leave hospital on Monday evening. In her entire life, she’s been in hospital less than a dozen times! Last time was ten years ago – when she had a knee operation to repair torn cartilage. All the best people have that operation, clearly!!

You may be interested to know that on Monday evening, my husband and I had an Audience with HM.

That’s not HM who is Her Majesty, but the HM who is Helen Mirren.

the audience

Having read the blogpost I wrote last year about this new play based on the weekly audience that the Queen holds with her Prime Ministers, Steph promptly booked a double ticket for the production at the Gielgud Theatre, and gave it to me as Christmas present. [I asked Bob to come with me!] Previews were in Feb- but the play ‘opened’ last night.

The Gielgud website explains …

For sixty years Elizabeth II has met each of her twelve Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace - a meeting like no other in British public life - it is private. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said. Not even to their spouses.

The Audience breaks this contract of silence - and imagines a series of pivotal meetings between the Downing Street incumbents and their Queen. From Churchill to Cameron, each Prime Minister has used these private conversations as a sounding board and a confessional - sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive. In turn, the Queen can't help but reveal her own self as she advises, consoles and, on occasion, teases.

From young mother to grandmother these private audiences chart the arc of the second Elizabethan Age. Politicians come and go through the revolving door of electoral politics, while she remains constant, waiting to welcome her next Prime Minister.

We both found the play extremely clever, both amusing and poignant. Of the twelve PMs of her reign, only seven get decent speaking parts in the play. It isn’t chronological, so we start with Major and end with Wilson. The Equerry ties everything together.

Helen Mirren as The Queen

Haydn Gwynne as Margaret Thatcher

Edward Fox as Winston Churchill

Paul Ritter as John Major

Nathaniel Parker as Gordon Brown

Rufus Wright as David Cameron

Michael Elwyn as Anthony Eden

Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson

Geoffrey Beevers as Equerry

audience casting

Aha! astute readers will say. The November post mentioned Robert Hardy as Churchill, not Edward Fox. true – but sadly RH fell and cracked a rib - and last week had to pull out of the production. The 87 year old has been very competently replaced by Edward Fox [who is only a sprightly 76!]

audience HM as HMaudience HM&lilibet

The costumes and wigs [often deftly changed while HM is still on stage screened from view by a couple of Ladies in Waiting] enable the Queen to appear [very believably] as a young woman, a middle aged monarch and…an old Queen. The use of young girls to play the Princess Elizabeth allow HM to have moments of personal reflection, as she remembers the childhood episodes which have helped shape her character. [the right hand picture above shows her ‘younger’ self walking away after they have talked together]

A knowledge of history  helps – from the Abdication crisis [when she became Heir Presumptive] through Suez, the Miners’ Strike, Charles and Diana’s Divorce, and more -  and there were reference to very current issues [the Mansion Tax, the retirement of the Pope…]

We both thought it was very clever and very witty. Paul Ritter had Major’s accent perfectly. Nathaniel Parker [aka Inspector Lynley] was good as Brown, and Richard McCabe was a surprisingly endearing Wilson. Bob felt Ms Gwynne overdid the “Maggie” role, but I suspect she really was that bad.

I calculated that on average I get to see something on the London stage every seven years or so. As with the other 7 productions, this one was excellent. We are not were greatly amused.

Thank you, Steph, for an evening which I shall remember for years.


  1. I am very jealous (in a generous, spiritual way)Glad you enjoyed it. I had a feeling it would be good.

  2. Sounds just up my street. We lack such excellent theatre events here. Everything seems so far away.

  3. I would love to see this. Only recently saw the Mirren movie of The Queen and adored it- all that imagery of the free, then hunted, then trapped stag was fabulous. I wonder could I get to London???

  4. What a lovely gift from good Steph! Thank you for sharing the details with us. I love your queen. I do.

  5. Decent theatre is so far away from us,and tickets are out of our reach...I'm now having a little day dream about the production!
    Jane x

  6. How wonderful! This sounds totally up my street! Steph had a great idea there!x

  7. What a wonderful present, and a great treat just when you both need it. I was watching a piece on TV about this play just the other day and thinking how good it sounded and now I so want to see it if it ever goes on tour.

  8. Thank you for your review Angela - but here you are rubbing shoulders with the great and good and I thought your only 'connection' was a friend, of a friend, brother's sister's friend, aunt who had a bit part in The Archers. You made me laugh muchly!

    Seriously - I have read the other reviews of this but yours is the most informative (as opposed to reading about how Ms Mirren has aged well!)

    Best wishes


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