Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Unconvinced by Donovan’s Speech

THEY whooped, cheered, clapped, yelled and made it clear they thought Jason Donovan in The King’s

THEY whooped, cheered, clapped, yelled and made it clear they thought Jason Donovan in The King’s Speech was a triumph. Thank goodness they did, otherwise I might not have woken from my slumber as I struggled to share their enthusiasm.

What floated their boat sank mine because this show seemed to drag on without doing much. Donovan is a perfectly adequate actor but his part of the inspirational speech therapist, Lionel Logue, needs nuance and emotional dynamics; most of all the sense of a developing dependency and friendship with the future George VI.

He went through the words well enough and moved about with conviction when the director allowed, but  the sensitivity and sense of well-meaning and hurt from Geoffrey Rush in the award-winning film were not there.

On the other hand Raymond Coulthard is convincing as George, or Bertie as his family knew him and Logue insisted on calling him.

Whatever the outcome  on stage it’s not the fault of the play, which is actually very good and provides insights not referenced in  the film â?? Edward VIII’s vile anti-semitism and admiration for Hitler, Wallis Simpson’s promiscuity and history, the manipulation of the royal family by functionaries describing themselves as “advisers” and George V making an appearance with the hint that his death was managed to suit a media campaign.

All of this is worthy of a Shakespeare history play but this reviewer feels the acting and direction did not do it justice. For instance, Winston Churchill was played as a caricature with a good attempt at his voice but sounding more like an audition for Dead Ringers, the future Queen Mother turned on a cut glass accent which was so precise that it seemed more like an East Ender trying to put on the posh for a Christmas party trick.

There is much that is good in this play, but a great deal that could be improved â?? much more movement in some scenes would help.

I had to stir myself to stay awake quite a few times, but as I listened to audience reaction emerging from the auditorium it was clear others didn’t feel the same way, so maybe I’m just an old misery.

Review: Mike Rowbottom

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