Review by Michael Piscitelli
Elizabeth II has been the reigning monarch for the last six and a half decades. In that time, she has had 13 British Prime Ministers visit in her private audience chambers. In Peter Morgan’s “THE AUDIENCE” we get to take an imagined look at what some of those conversations might have looked like and how the queen comported herself with the leaders of one of the most powerful countries in the world. Fiona Reid who plays the monarch herself, displayed an excellent manner and an understanding of the differences in age that the queen has gone through in 65 years of rule.
Her demeanor and mannerisms were like looking at several different actresses playing the same queen throughout the years.
Naomi Cronk, who plays the younger version of Reid, brought to the show an interesting look at how the Queen’s world view changed as she got older and became used to the idea of being in the position that she is now. She still however kept that mischievous and innocent value to try to use words and not violence to solve the nations problems.
The set of the queen’s audience chambers was simple in idea but layered and intricate in execution. Set and costume designer Christina Poddubiuk created a multi layered set, with each stratum separated by a scrim (a curtain that can show or hide things behind it, depending on how it is lit) and making everything on stage multi-dimensional. This is also due in part to the lighting designer Scott Henderson.
During the performance, the Queen undergoes several transformations both on stage and off. Wig designer Sharon Ryman and costume designer Poddubiuk fashioned exceptional ideas that were flawlessly executed on stage by her ladies-in-waiting to make a seamless transition back and forth from young age to elderly and back again. After working as a dresser, I know how nerve-wracking it can be to get an actor in and out of a costume in a short period, especially when it happens on stage for all the world to see. Well done, my fellow dressers!
Knowing little about the queen myself, this show gave me the opportunity to become interested in the history behind the monarchy, and why some people may or may not like the institution. Character driven and witty to no end, “The Audience” on stage at the newly refurbished Royal Alexandra Theatre until February 26th is a show that may go over younger people’s heads, but will be delightful for those who know part of what the queen has done in the last 65 years.