Heads Up: The Audience
Mirren, the drama Queen, is ready to reign again
What are we talking about? A new play, which imagines what goes on behind the closed doors of Buckingham Palace, where the Queen has held weekly meetings with 12 different Prime Ministers.
Elevator pitch Her Royal Highness will be seen now: Mirren dons the crown again for a right royal audience.
Prime movers It's written by Peter Morgan, returning to his fave subjects – HRH, and politicians – after his Oscar and Bafta nominated screenplays for The Queen, and Frost/Nixon. It's directed by Stephen Daldry, the man behind Billy Elliot, The Hours, and The Reader. Tony award-winning designer Bob Crowley is on designing duties.
The stars She's at it again: Helen Mirren, who impressed as the monarch in The Queen, winning an Oscar for her imitation, is reunited with Morgan to portray his version of Elizabeth once more. As for her PMs, Robert Hardy plays Churchill, Michael Elwyn gets Eden, Richard McCabe takes on Wilson, Haydn Gwynne is Thatcher, Paul Ritter becomes Major, Nathaniel Parker is Brown and Rufus Wright plays Cameron.
The Early buzz Much excitement; it featured on almost every look-ahead list, with The Independent calling it "a mouth-watering proposition", The Telegraph, an "intriguing new play", The Guardian musing that "presumably it'll be a battle of the handbags when it comes to those allegedly frosty encounters with Thatcher", and The Daily Mail concluding that The Audience "is bound to be one of the hottest tickets in town in years."
Insider knowledge Mirren isn't the only one returning to a previous role – Hardy will be playing Winston Churchill for the eighth time.
It's great that … although daunted by having to play the Queen ageing over 60 years, Mirren seems to have cracked the challenge by listening to how Elizabeth II's voice has modulated. She suggests that "she had a terribly posh voice when she was young [but now] there's a tiny bit of estuary creeping in there."
It's a shame that … there's a notable recent name missing from the list: where oh where is Tony Blair? Wouldn't his Iraq chat with the Queen have been rather interesting?
Hit potential You need to ask? Even with "premium" tickets going for the princely sum of £87, plenty of tickets have shifted already.
The details The Audience is at the Gielgud Theatre, London W1 (theaudienceplay.com), 15 February to 15 June.
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