Theatre review: The King's Speech
Jason Donovan and Raymond Coulthard impress in the play-turned-film-turned-play
Thanks to its Oscar-winning 2010 film adaptation, The King’s Speech – originally written by David Seidler as a play – finally gets to hit the stage. Set in the late 1930s, Seidler's script lends a political resonance to the story of George VI – then Prince Albert, Duke of York – and his struggle with his stammer. The threat of Hitler, and George's brother’s childish attitude towards monarchical power, suggest that more is at stake in the words of the king than merely personal dignity.
This political edge aside, the production is a safe and solid show. A strong ensemble supports good central performances from Raymond Coulthard as the King and Jason Donovan as his speech therapist. A striking yet simple design from Tom Piper houses a play that refuses to dwell on the more problematic aspects of the monarchy in the inter-war years, becoming a fable about the importance of friendship, emotional honesty and faith.
While the presence of Winston Churchill (Nicholas Blane) is a reminder of the seriousness of the times, this is an entertaining and not too intense evening: Donovan is a likeable hero, and Coulthard captures the king's vulnerability and majesty. The occasional comic interlude – such as Coulthard's dance number – ensure that the script's levity triumphs over the possible, more sinister, implications of a failing aristocracy in the face of Nazi invasion.
Theatre Royal Glasgow until Sat 21 Mar 2015; King's Theatre, Edinburgh from Mon 18–Sat 23 May.