By Peter Morgan.
Directed by Nick Bowling.
At TimeLine Theatre, Chicago.
I am not “a postage stamp with a pulse.” – Queen Elizabeth II
Stunning acting propels look at British contemporary history.
TimeLine Theatre starts its 21st season with Peter Morgan’s The Audience. This wonderful drama is a glimpse into the weekly meetings with the current British Prime Minister and Queen Elizabeth II wherein the prime minister informs the queen on the political happenings that happened that week. The queen advises and offers opinions but she can not make political decisions. This fictional drama covers those meeting from 1952 through 2015, 63 years of meeting with 12 Prime ministers from Winston Churchill to David Cameron. (Morgan didn’t cover Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas Home, and Edward Heath.)
We see how Churchill taught Elizabeth tradition and how to function as a queen. What makes this historical fictional drama work so effectively are a combination of factors. Playwright Peter Morgan’s astute writing; the fabulous performances; and director Nick Bowling’s fine casting. Anchored by Janet Ulrich Brook’s tour de force performance as Queen Elizabeth II that depicts the subtly, the discipline and the refinement of the British monarch. Brooks says so much with non-verbal movement, strong looks and gestures, that we understand her communications. Brooks gives her best, to date work here.
As we witness the different personality types in British prime ministers, two amazingly powerful actors depict them. Matt DeCaro was mesmerizing as several larger-then-life prime ministers. His Winston Churchill was over powering; his Tony Blair was spot-on but his Harold Wilson was empathic and personable. No wonder, Wilson was Elizabeth’s favorite PM. Mark Ulrich was effective as the weaker PM’s. From the arrogant Anthony Eden to the weakling John Major and Gordon Brown, we witness the foibles of the PM”s who often desired the queen’s approval as much as her counsel.
David Lively, as Equerry, the queen’s day-to-day minister narrates and sets the formal tone for the drama most effectively. But of all the meetings with the PM’s, there was one with Margaret Thatcher (Carmen Roman in an intense turn) that show the two powerful and strong-will woman in mortal debate. The queen defending the unions and the PM attacking the commonwealth. This scene demonstrated the metal of the queen.
The Audience is terrific theatre. Two hours of riveting acting with many telling scenes told with with humor and stinging retorts. Nick Bowling’s staging in-the-round with an all-white set give an intimacy to those meetings. We become a ‘fly-on-the wall.’
The Audience makes history and powerful historical figures come to life, foibles and all. We see that Elizabeth II is more than a smiling lady with a handbag. Brooks is wonderful here. This is a gem!
Date Reviewed: August 26, 2017.
For more info check out TheAudience page at theatreinchicago.com.
At TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago, IL, call 773-281-8463, www.timelinetheatre.com, tickets $40 – $49- $54, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through November 12, 2017.