Mon May 20 2013
Time Out rating:
Not yet rated
Time Out says
Posted: Wed Mar 6 2013
Most folk get more conservative as they get older. Not Her Majesty. As if leaping out of helicopters with James Bond wasn’t enough of a thrill, our 86-year-old monarch has now taken to the stage, where she flirts with prime ministers, knocks back whisky and defends miners, black South Africans and other oppressed persons. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!
It’s all just a fantasy, of course – but an irresistibly witty, entertaining one, newly created for the stage by writer of ‘The Queen’ and ‘Frost/Nixon’, Peter Morgan, ‘Billy Elliot’ director Stephen Daldry, and Britain’s top royal impersonator, Helen Mirren.
Morgan’s playful sketch of the Queen’s weekly meetings with eight of her 12 PMs feels somewhere between a sequel, a prequel and a selection of outtakes from his 2006 Oscar-bait film. The real monarch’s meetings with her PMs aren’t minuted, so we’re free to roll with the gossip and speculation.
Only Mirren could play Her Majesty in both her twenties and her eighties, and she makes her starry – most of this generous, touchy-feely portrait of a monarch whose aversion to tax, Di and progress are swept under the carpet in about two minutes by a bumbling caricature of John Major (the excellent Paul Ritter).
Daldry’s gorgeous, nicely paced show is the ‘Billy Elliot’ of monarchism: final confirmation, after the Olympics, that the Queen is now a pearly pin-up girl for the leftie creatives who invented Cool Britannia. She emerges (who’d credit it?) as a David Frost-like interrogator – pro-Nasser, anti-Eden, and fervently anti-racist. But Superma’am makes great theatre: except in one over-coloured argument about apartheid with Haydn Gwynne’s Thatcher, a spitting image monster. This landslide show should get a vote of confidence from everyone except the most ardent of UKippers and Marxists.
The live corgis which gambol through Balmoral are a tough act to follow – but the human actors are top-drawer too. The closest thing that Morgan’s play has to an emotional centre is the monarch’s relationship with Richard McCabe’s charismatic Harold Wilson. He’s caricatured spectacularly as a panto northerner, valued for his warm heart and unique habit of telling the truth.
It’s fiction, but all the better for it. This isn’t the Queen we actually have; but it’s the Queen that most of us would like. Caroline McGinn
Gielgud Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue
- Event phone:
0844 482 5130
- Event website:
Theatre. Drama. West End
- Date Time Price information
Mon May 20 201319:30£10-£85. Runs 2hrs 20minsBuy tickets