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Theatre Review: The King's Speech - Theatre Royal, Glasgow ✭✭✭✭

Review by Anna Ireland 

The play that inspired the Oscar-winning film continues its UK tour in Glasgow this week.  The piece begins with wartime King George VI (Raymond Coulthardpre-warterrified by the prospect of his ascension to the throne in the face of his terrible stammer. The laughing stock of his family, he is plagued by embarrassment. Lionel Logue (Jason Donovan) is a last-resort Australian speech therapist, enlisted by wife Elizabeth (Claire Lams) at her wits end. Logue does not succumb to the charm of the Prince otreat him accordingly; in his office, neither of them are royalty. Indeed, he insists on calling him Bertie.’ He is not a Harley Street specialist and employs unusual techniques, but he seeks to get to the very heart of the Princes problem. And he listens.

Claire Lams as Elizabeth, future Queen Mother, is great as a driving force for the reluctant prince. With this and the revelation of Lionels own struggles, Prince and therapist become friends. This bond between two unlikely candidates is one that ties a play about physical strugglewith the growth of a friendship. In a scene that requires the king to dance to shake loose his nerves and stammer, he does so swearing joyously, while Lionel joins in. It is genuinely funny, and genuinely serious. Donovan is warm and entertaining, and together the two are pretty magic. Additionally, there are some entertaining lines from Churchill (Nicholas Blane) and the Archbishop (Martin Turner) as the chorus, although perhaps a little less narration was required.

The stage, with 'On Air' looming above, is well utilised, with doors opening and closing and characters appearing above and below; the audience feels the trapped-in sense that the King does by his inability to fulfil his 'duties.' In the Westminster Abbey scene, the set is magnificent.

As the war is announced, Lionel instructs 'Bertie' to undertake his climactic speech like it is to friends. Here, the tension could have perhaps been built to a greater degree so that the audience's hearts were fully in their mouths. 

However,Coulthard's performance is powerful and convincing in moments of deep fear and frustration. The King's words are uncertain, slightly faltered, but an ultimate triumph of perseverance.

On stage you cannot grasp the magnitude of those he is addressing, but we are constantly aware of these watchful eyes. The simplicity is enough, just as the two men are enough to stand for courage and bravery. At the end, with the Kings words ofmy friend,’ the pair are equals, and it is truly touching. Model plans descending from the ceiling are an ironic reminder of the even greater battle that will soon face the country as a whole. This show is truly as funny and entertaining as it is poignant and it worth seeing even if merely to marvel at its moving tale.

The King's Speech is at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 21st March. For tickets and information visit www.atgtickets.com/Glasgow

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