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Helen Mirren wins praise for The Audience

Story by Jack Foley

HELEN Mirren has been hailed as “magnificent” by theatre critics for her latest portrayal of The Queen in Stephen Daldry’s new play, The Audience.

The celebrated actress has previously won an Oscar for playing the Queen on the big screen and has made a triumphant return to the character, albeit for a different look at her life.

The Audience is based on a script by Peter Morgan and imagines the private meetings between Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers over her 60 year reign.

It co-stars Haydn Gwynne as Baroness Thatcher, Edward Fox (replacing the injured Robert Hardy) as Sir Winston Churchill, Paul Ritter as John Major and Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson.

Leading the fanfare of approval after the play’s official first night was the Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer who awarded the production the maximum five stars and wrote: “In this marvellous piece, with Helen Mirren once again giving a magnificent performance as the Queen, he penetrates at least some of her mystery, with compassion, grace, affection and humour.”

The Independent’s Paul Taylor commented: “The 67-year-old Mirren rises to the daunting technical challenge with a quite uncannily fluid lightness of touch as she shifts back and forth on an age-spectrum of six decades.

“At one end, in mourning black and with a tight, high-pitched plumminess of voice, she’s the 26-year-old neophyte, already angling to secure her interests as a wife and mother against the paternalist and patronising solicitude of Churchill… at the other, she’s an octogenarian, nodding off during a session with the bland Cameron.”

Yet another five-star review came from Whatsonstage.com’s Michael Coveney, who praised the play’s “imaginative range, lack of sentimentality and incisive intelligence”.

Indeed, most critics found something to like even if they weren’t bowled over by the play itself, with The Guardian’s Michael Billington sounding one note of caution by saying that “however hard Morgan tries, the evening can’t help but seem like a series of revue sketches: a kind of 1956 And All That“.

Even he was forced to admit, though, that Mirren’s performance is “luminous”.

Those unlucky enough to get tickets for the theatre run, which concludes on June 15, 2013, can see it in cinemas when it is broadcast live on June 13.