Just two weeks ago, I was at Richmond Theatre watching the stage version of The King’s Speech (read my review here). So when I got an invitation to see the press night of the West End version, I was in two minds whether to see it again. I chose to accept partly to cheer on my friend Adam Lilley, who is in the ensemble.
I’m glad I did, though, because seeing the play again helped me clarify a few things.
I still think the play is a bit stodgy – the scenes of political exposition don’t quite work, and the overuse of the revolve at the top of Act 2 is as ridiculous as ever.
But at least the revolve at the Wyndham’s is built into the stage. At Richmond, the stage need to be elevated some distance to accommodate the mechanism, and as a result the first few rows of stalls were kept empty, as audience members would not have been able to see anything. That enforced distance between audience and stage makes a big difference in a script which is peppered with many funny lines. When the distance is too far, it can take too long to realise the audience is laughing at one line, throwing the timing off. At Wyndham’s, where no seat is particularly far away from the stage, the intimacy makes the comedy moments zing, and the emotional highpoints resonate too.
Many of my misgivings about The King’s Speech remain. But the play itself, in its new home, works better and feels that little bit more convincing as an evening of theatre.