Helen Mirren in The Audience breaks audience record as 110,000 people watch in cinemas

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It is called The Audience - and the West End play has broken an audience record.

A live broadcast of Helen Mirren starring as the Queen in The Audience has attracted the largest audience so far for National Theatre Live (NT Live), which broadcasts stage shows from England to cinema screens worldwide.

Peter Morgan's play, performed at London's Gielgud Theatre, was seen by nearly 80,000 people in the UK and 30,000 people in North America on June 13 - a record for the four-year-old programme.

David Sabel, executive producer of NT Live, described the success of the broadcast as "exciting", and said: "We were expecting a big audience for it because there's been great buzz but it's turned out even greater than expected."

He pointed out that The Audience was "such a hot ticket" in the West End and said there was no question that the scale of the success of the play with NT Live is in part due to 67-year-old Mirren's reputation.

Commenting on whether or not watching a play on a cinema screen is a step down from being in the theatre, he said: "It's not a second-best experience. It's just a different experience."

He added: "It reminds people of the excitement of going to live theatre."

The response has prompted more screenings of the play, with nearly 800 taking place in the UK and 700 scheduled in North America throughout the summer.

The Audience imagines the private weekly meetings between the Queen and Britain's prime ministers - 12 in all - over her six-decade reign.

Mirren won an Oliver Award in April for the role, and hit the headlines last month when she shouted at a group of drummers outside the theatre to be quiet while still dressed in her stage costume.

She admitted using "a few thespian words" and said the group were "very sweet and stopped the minute they knew I wasn't just a batty old woman haranguing them on the streets of Soho".

Mirren told ITV News: "In another situation I would have been out here just enjoying it with all the punters.

"Unfortunately I was having to do a play at the same time."

The actress previously won an Academy Award in 2007 for her performance as the same British monarch in The Queen, a film directed by Stephen Frears.

Mr Sabel added: "You never quite know the ingredients that will make the recipe for success in theatre.

"But before The Audience even opened, this felt like an incredibly exciting and tantalising offer to see Helen play a role that she played so iconically on screen in her Oscar-winning performance."

PA

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