The Arts Club Theatre Company’s The Audience is a regal night out as Queen Elizabeth and her Prime Ministers take the audience on a trip through time. Perfectly poised to capitalize on the recent royal interest brought on by The Crown on Netflix and Victoria on PBS, The Audience tells us what goes on behind the closed doors of The Queen’s weekly meeting with her Prime Minister.
Part history lesson, part fable The Audience shows us glimpses of the important historic events during Queen Elizabeth’s reign while trying to give us a fly-on-the-wall take on her relationships with 8 of her 13 PMs. While knowing a bit about the Monarchy and British Government helps to flesh out the backstory, the dialogue between Her Majesty and the first ministers would be enjoyable without it. The Audience is not told chronologically, instead Toby the Equerry, played by BC theatre great Bernard Cuffling, narrates the story and weaves together the audiences with similar themes, showing how some events have a way of repeating themselves.
Anna Galvin makes the hard work of bringing Queen Elizabeth II to life seem second nature, changing and aging on stage in many cases. Impressively she moderates The Queen’s accent, which has evolved over the years, sometimes within the same speech and while changing costume. The Queen as we know her now is probably the least visually captivating, due to her presence of mind, and also perhaps of a questionable white wig. The young Bianca Sanchez Galvin as the young Princess Elizabeth flits in and out of the stage as The Queen conscience, allowing the adult to offer some sage advice to her younger self.
Some of the PMs were truly ‘characters’ and the actors portraying them do a capable job of finding their stand out traits that make them familiar without becoming caricatures. While some we only briefly meet, others show up more often, an apparent testament to The Queen’s fondness for her Prime Minister. Ted Cole’s John Major starts us off in his typical hangdog manor. Harold Wilson, as played by David Marr is shown to be a favourite and gets a deserving amount of The Audience. Wilson’s everyman persona earns a great deal of applause as do some 4 legged favourites of The Queen who make a visit during the second act, nearly stealing the show. Overall, The Audience nicely balances what could be a dry history lesson, with a great deal of heart and humour.
The Audience is playing at The Arts Club Theatre Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 26, 2017.