65 years. 13 Prime Ministers. One Queen.
Every week, same time, same place, the Prime Minister attends an Audience with Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace. These frank and confidential meetings are where they discuss and debate social issues and political actions. Last night, I too attended an Audience with her majesty at the Nuffield Southampton Theatre. The Audience is a play that give us a glimpse into Elizabeth’s life, her memories and her relationships with past prime ministers.
Faye Castelow portrays the Queen throughout her reign, illustrated through costume changes (I loved seeing the different styles of dress the Queen wore through time), and the Equerry (played by Southampton’s own Sharon Singh), who is always on-hand for her majesty and narrates the story. Internal monologues with Elizabeth’s younger self (a shared role between Maddie Farmer and Fay Burwell) showed us the confusing transition in her childhood as her father ascended the throne following the abdication of her uncle. We watched as her life changed forever for a future she was not prepared for.
The play, directed by Samuel Hodges and written by Peter Morgan (The Crown, The Queen) is a story that poses the question, who has the power - the crown or the government? Despite her views on a situation, the Queen’s duty is to always support her Prime Minister. We watched her debate and question Anthony Eden and Tony Blair, and we witnessed an amazing stand-off in a fantastic tense and competitive scene with Margaret Thatcher (played by Lizzie Hopley). She developed compassionate relationships as well, with especially with Harold Wilson.
We meet 8 (plus a recently added cameo!) Prime Ministers in the play. If like me, you aren’t familiar with some PM’s, it doesn’t effect your appreciation or understanding of the dialogue - in fact, I left feeling like I learned a lot about our political history.
All of the male PM’s are played by one actor, Paul Kemp. His impressions were so good that you could even tell who he was playing just from his posture! The choice to cast one single male actor for all these roles was described by Hodges to illustrate “the parade of middle-aged, mostly male prime ministers.” The characters literally come in and out of stage on a conveyer belt, one after the other.
The Audience is a fabulous play. It’s thought provoking, funny and a great insight into the Queen’s life and work. It’s a must-see for fans of The Crown or if you have an interest in politics and history. It’s running in Southampton until 22nd June 2019 and you can order your tickets HERE!
*Gifted press night tickets