Review: The King’s Speech

Jason Donovan and Raymond Coulthard. Pic: Comp
Jason Donovan and Raymond Coulthard. Pic: Comp
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AFTER Jeeves & Wooster, the King’s Theatre is the place for another pantomime of upper class manners this week.

* * * *

King’s Theatre

There is more than a hint of the PG Wodehouse inspired later episodes of Blackadder in this show, and the audience lapped up the gags, mostly at royal expense, by the bicorn hatful.

Stephen Fry would have been perfect as last night’s baddie Archbishop of Canterbury, and if there is ever a Blackadder remake, after his performance as devil-may-care Edward VIII, Jamie Hinde will be perfect in Rik Mayall’s Captain Flashard role.

Then we had George V looking and sounding like a cross between Cap’n Birdseye and one of the inventors in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Best of all, however, was a Winston Churchill seemingly based loosely on band leader Billy Cotton. Wakey, wakey, Adolf.

The house was far busier than last week, no doubt thanks to the popularity of the film and the attraction of Jason Donovan as George VI’s speech therapist Lionel Logue, and as a piece of popular entertainment the production more than passed muster.

Raymond Coulthard as George VI is at his best in a stirring Westminster Abbey scene, as the King finally learns to assert himself, but until then the monarch-to-be lacks the vulnerability, frustration and personal anguish which made Colin Firth’s portrayal so memorable in the movie.

Perhaps for reasons of theatrical projection and pace Coulthard’s stammer doesn’t sound anything like as debilitating as Firth’s, unfortunately that means he comes over just as a sniffy toff in need of a few elocution lessons rather than a vulnerable human weighed down by inadequacy, impossible sense of duty and inescapable fate.

Obviously Logue’s Australian accent is not a problem for Donovan, and his approach is appropriately laid-back so that while he doesn’t quite steal the show, for consistency his is the star performance.

The production has been touring since the middle of February and has two more weeks to run, no wonder the King’s stammer is getting better.

Run ends Saturday