The King’s Speech by David Seidler at Chichester Festival Theatre
Thanks to the film based on essentially the same script, there can be few British subjects who do not now know the story behind one of the Royal family’s best kept secrets.
In an era when the monarchy was first subjected to the full glare of radio and increasingly television, the ability to speak with clarity and authority was never more important.
For a king leading his people through the second world war and with a brother, newly abdicated and potentially disruptive, it was critical.
But George VI suffered from a stutter the like of which in the mid 20th century could have imperilled not just the Royal family but the entire nation.
So he sought help from the most unlikely of advisers – a blunt Australian and failed actor Lionel Logue.
Never were there two more contrasting characters nor the more unlikely basis for an enduring friendship.
This latest production deftly reprises the film but it is just a little too timid.
The king’s stammer is not theatrically magnified sufficiently for the audience to appreciate both the handicap that it proved and the importance of Logue in helping the king overcome it.
Without that fundamental treatment the driving point of the play is subdued and with it the emotional journey that both men traversed. This must be a play of extremes.
Theatre cannot compete with film on special effects but it should always trump it with the dimension of real life, intimate emotion.
That apart, Raymond Coulthard as the monarch and Jason Donovan as Logue give strong performances and it’s a great choice of play in the build-up to the launch of the main summer season.