King's Speech film killed us off, say stars of stuttering West End show
Acclaimed production to close less than eight weeks into its run
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Saturday 21 April 2012
King George VI may have overcome his speech impediment for a crucial radio broadcast in the feel-good movie of last year, but slow ticket sales for the theatrical version means the curtain will fall for the last time next month.
The West End run of The King's Speech is to close less than eight weeks after its opening night, the producers revealed yesterday, admitting they had not waited long enough after the release of the Oscar-winning film to stage the work.
The film version of The King's Speech won four Oscars last year, including best original screenplay for Seidler and best film.
The play, which writer David Seidler called "My King's Speech", had been booking until late July, but will now finish at the Wyndham's Theatre on May 12, despite a positive reception for audiences and critics.
The producers said in a joint statement yesterday that the play was to be staged two years ago but "the film came along and blocked its path.
They added: "At the start of this year, we believed that enough time had passed between the film and our opening. This was clearly not the case."
The play's rapid demise will surprise many who were present at its world premiere, at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, in February, when it received a standing ovation. Starring Charles Edwards as King George VI and Jonathan Hyde as Lionel Logue, it went on to tour Nottingham, Bath, Brighton, Richmond and Newcastle before arriving for its London run. Michael Alden was the originating producer, and Playful Productions, Robert Bartner and Norman Tulchin co-produced the show for the West End. They said: "We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished. It is a production of genuine quality that has been critically and publicly acclaimed across the board."
Yet signs of underperformance emerged within a fortnight of opening in the West End, and disappointing ticket sales forced the producers into a marketing drive, and offering heavily discounted tickets. It was not enough, and the decision was taken earlier this week to close. A spokesman for the show declined to reveal the size of the losses it had incurred in its Wyndham's run.
The King's Speech is not the first play to falter at the West End box office. The Beatles musical Backbeat closed early this year after mixed reviews and weak demand, while in October last year Cool Hand Luke – based on a book adapted into the critically acclaimed Paul Newman film – lasted just 67 performances.
Cameron Mackintosh's first new musical in over a decade, Betty Blue Eyes, closed last September after six months, with the producer saying it had "failed to attract an audience in sufficient numbers to remain economically viable".
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