There’s nothing more disappointing than going to see a hyped-up show that turns out to be a big flop. Well, luckily for Manhattan theater goers, there’s absolutely no chance of being let down by Helen Mirren’s captivating performance in The Audience.
Revising the role that won her the Oscar for Best Actress in 2007, The Audience chronicles sixty years of Queen Elizabeth II’s private weekly meetings with her twelve Prime Ministers. From Churchill during WWII, to Margaret Thatcher’s iron fist in the 1980s, to David Cameron’s commentary on The Obamas, the biggest players in modern British History are all there. Taken at face value, The Audience can be considered the most fascinating history class you’ll ever have the privilege to attend.
Helen Mirren’s performance is flawless on a level reserved only for the truly talented. Fans of her rendition of Queen Elizabeth in The Queen might be skeptical of how the 69-year-old actress could depict a 25-year-old Elizabeth in 1952, but Mirren does so without skipping a beat. More importantly, by playing Elizabeth over her lifetime we’re given an intimate portrait of the Queen in a way that lets us begin to understand the woman behind the purse.
Even next to Mirren’s show-stopping performance, the Prime Minister roles all held-up as exceedingly strong. Richard McCabe, in particular, as 1960s/1970s P.M. Harold Wilson, does a wonderful job in contrast to The Queen, ultimately bringing an immense amount of humanity to the often chilly-seeming monarch. I can also truthfully say that when Margaret Thatcher, played by Judith Ivey, marched onto the stage I found myself pulling back in my seat, terrified that I might endure her wrath. McCabe and Ivey’s performances, along with those by Michael Elwyn as Anthony Eden, Rufus Wright as David Cameron, and several others, brought fascinating elements for Mirren to play off of, making the show all the more incredible.
Seeing Mirren play Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience is a once in a lifetime theater experience. Run, don’t walk, to get your tickets for this limited run while you still can.
The Audience is playing at the Schoenfeld Theater on West 45th Street until June 28th.