For those who, like me, haven’t seen the smash hit film; this is the heart warming true story of King George VI overcoming his stutter in order to deliver the speech of his life.
Set during Churchill-era Great Britain, this play is tight, amusing, emotional and powerful and allows its leads the chance to take centre stage; an opportunity both actors do with pleasure.
The relationship between King George and his Australian actor cum speech therapist is key to the story and vital to the plays success. Fortunately for this production the chemistry between Raymond Coulthard (King George) and Jason Donovan (Lionel Logue) is so good, the play whizzes by and moves the audience so much in the final moments.
There seems to be a genuine understanding and appreciation between both actors and this translates effortless to their on-stage relationship with King George and Lionel becoming an unlikely double-act. This audience were moved to applause in the humorous and exhilarating moment that sees Lionel make the King dance around his room. Their final handshake at the end of the show was especially moving and a fitting climax.
Coulthard delivers a strong and measured performance as King George VI and the audience hold their breath praying him to spit his words out. The frustration he feels is wholly believable and the pressure on his shoulders is immense and his final speech and realisation that he can be a successful King is triumphant.
Donovan as hapless dreamer Lionel is the perfect foil for the stuffiness of King George. Light-footed, free-spirited and completely loveable, the audience are as pleased for him by the end of the show as they are King George. Donovan has worked hard to carve out a successful theatre career and on thestrength of this performance, it is his ability and credentials and not his star name that will continue to get him work in the future. A crowd pleaser for all the right reasons.
The two leads were well supported on stage by a small cast; particularly Katy Stephens as long suffering Myrtle Logue, who helped the story flow. The staging and scenery was simple and formal, befitting the nature of the play, and no scene change took longer than ten seconds.
This was a confident and strong production both in terms of individual performances, bond between its lead actors and classic storytelling.
Review by Andy Edmeads