Grexit, “that” Nazi salute, 12 Prime Ministers and a postage stamp with a pulse: The Audience is political satire at its best.
With more outfit changes than Kylie Minogue – and all under the scrutiny of the viewing public, albeit slightly screened by efficient aides – Kirstin Scott Thomas as Queen Elizabeth II bedazzles in her tiaras and ballgowns.
She has obviously researched her subject thoroughly: from the change in her voice pitch, alternating the more youthful Lilibet to the octogenarian UK and Commonwealth Head of State, to her demeanour, going from energetic to slow, Scott Thomas captured the essence of The Queen.
Just as my friends and I were watching Scott Thomas at the Apollo Theatre (thank you Jenny for the present!), in other parts of the world the National Theatre were screening The Audience starring Dame Helen Mirren in Broadway at the cinemas for NTLive.
Back in London, we were treated to a show that represents the best of British, particularly British traditions and institutions. The Queen is a mirror to British society who, in 60+ years of reign, has seen 12 different Prime Ministers and a multitude of heads of state.
The most awe-inspiring element of the play is the ever-changing script, which is constantly updated to reflect the major happenings in UK and international politics. With a wink to the Greek economy and June 2015 referendum, to a nudge to “that” family video from the royal archive, The Audience’s script is a living and breathing organism that adapts constantly. The original script by Peter Morgan did not include Tony Blair nor David Cameron (both played brilliantly by Mark Dexter) – nor Gordon Brown (played by the excellent Gordon Kennedy) for that matter, my favourite character (after Scott Thomas, of course!), with all his Scottishness.
You do wonder how much the satirical view of the uncomfortable working relationship between The Queen and Margaret Thatcher (a pitch-perfect Sylvestra Le Touzel) reflected the actual relationship, or the warm and affectionate working relationship between the Sovereign and Harold Wilson (a magnificent Nicholas Woodeson) was really that devoid of formality.
This is, indeed, a work of fiction, but having all those references to real facts and people make you want to believe that reality is stranger than fiction. The Audience is a truly outstanding play and I hope it will return to the West End.