National Theatre Live: The Audience (2013)

This isn’t strictly a film in the traditional sense. It’s a National Theatre Live production, so a filmed broadcast of a stage show, played in cinemas like a feature film, except live (or near enough).

Like writer Peter Morgan’s other works, the film “The Queen” (coming before this), and the television series “The Crown” (coming after it), this focuses on Queen Elizabeth II. It covers fictionalised, dramatised versions of her weekly meetings with various Prime Ministers over her decades in power. These are shown in non-linear order, and interspersed with scenes with Elizabeth as a child.

The writing is as sharp as you’d expect from Morgan, and more comic than his political films. Helen Mirren is just as impressive here as she was in “The Queen”, and most of the actors for the various Prime Ministers also deliver good performances. The weekly meetings between the Queen and the Prime Minister are such an interesting concept – in an interview during the intermission, Peter Morgan describes them as “therapy” since it’s two people meeting solely for conversation for so long for such consistent times – that they really were ripe for dramatising like this. Who knows how accurate are, given they’re largely just extrapolated from Morgan’s sources and opinions on the Queen, the Prime Ministers, and the issues of the times, but they’re certainly compelling viewing.

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I hope Morgan mines his own content from here for later seasons of his television series “The Crown”, covering all of Queen Elizabeth II’s life, because it really is compelling. As with the best of Morgan’s political writing, the content is relatable, centred in understandable emotion and relationships, and much more accessible than might be expected.

A very enjoyable show. I give it four sugar cubes, and a yellow chair.

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