Southern Yacht

My little take on plus size fashion, life, travel and smurfs

Friday 31 May 2019

The Audience at Nuffield Southampton Theatre, City

The Audience stamp image

Last night I was invited to the Press Night* of The Audience at Nuffield Southampton Theatre City, to spend the evening with the Queen and 9 prime ministers (which isn't something you can say every day). On arrival we were met with a red carpet and the royal car - I could get used to every evening at the theatre starting like this!

The Audience at NST City, red carpet and royal car

The Audience tells the story of the weekly meetings between the Queen and her prime minister. No-one ever knows what is discussed, there are no minutes or records of the meetings. But wouldn't we all love to be a fly on the wall and know what they talk about? Do they get on? Is there tension, laughs? Does she, or did she have, a favourite prime minister?

This award winning play by Peter Morgan (writer of the TV series The Crown and the film The Queen) comes to Southampton in a new intimate version directed by NST Director Samuel Hodges. The production is bought right up to date and even incorporates the very recent resignation of Theresa May.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

With only 5 actors and a double sided stage, you feel like you're right there in the room looking over the Queen's shoulder. Paul Kemp plays all of the 7 male prime ministers and what a task that is. Quite how he shifts seamlessly from one character to the next is mesmerising. Especially the transition between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the same scene. No fancy prosthetics are used or needed - as soon as Paul Kemp walks on (or glides, thanks to the moving walkway) he perfectly captures the physical traits of each prime minister from Churchill's bent gait to Blair's smile.

The Audience - Paul Kemp (Harold Wilson)

Likewise, with Faye Castelow who plays the Queen, no prosthetics are needed here either. From just her style of clothing, movement and speech alone you could tell the age and era of the play. Ranging from youthful exuberance during her first meeting with Winston Churchill where he affectionately calls her by her childhood name of Lilibet, through to the slower, cautious movements of a Queen in her senior years meeting David Cameron.

The Audience - Paul Kemp (Harold Wilson), Faye Castelow (Queen)

I found the scene with Harold Wilson where he tells the Queen of his decision to resign very moving. He was a prime minister I remember from childhood and I didn't appreciate fully the difficulties faced during his second term. And although we never know exactly what was discussed, I can truly imagine the conflict portrayed in the scene with Margaret Thatcher (fiercely played by Lizzie Hopley who in a stark contrast also plays the gentle role of Bobo, the Queen's nanny).

Faye Castelow conveys a true portrait of a woman dedicated to a lifetime of service despite the conflicts and doubt in her youth. Fay Burwell and Maddie Farmer who share the role of the young Princess Elizabeth portray the sense of duty through a child's eyes.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Fay Burwell / Maddie Farmer (Princess Elizabeth)

The Audience - Paul Kemp, Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

The Queen's vulnerability is demonstrated during the costume changes on stage scenes aided by her equerry (Sharon Singh, the lynch pin of the whole play). With haunting music and balletic movements, the shift between scenes was beautifully choreographed.

The Audience - Faye Castelow (Queen), Sharon Singh (Equerry). Lizzie Hopley (Bobo)

The Audience is at Nuffield Southampton Theatre City until 22nd June and I would definitely recommend going. I took my partner who normally shows very little interest in politics and I could hear him chuckling away (and without giving away any spoilers, let's just say we will never forget Theresa May's moment on the stage!). There really are some laugh out loud moments.

Thanks for reading


*Tickets were gifted for the purpose of this review

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