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The King's Speech - Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Louise Winter on 6th May 2015 | View all blogs by Louise Winter


The King;s Speech poster

Reviewed at Milton Keynes Theatre 5 May 2015

by Louise Winter 


This production is absolutely superb in all aspects. 

Whilst many may decide to buy tickets for this on the strength of enjoying the 2010 film, this play has a different emphasis and is better for it. The film is perhaps primarily concerned with the relationship of the two main characters and glosses over some of the events of the time in order to sanitise the story to appeal to a more general audience (and the various awards bodies; it won 117 awards after all so clearly was a triumph). 

However, my feeling is that David Seidler’s stage play is altogether more rounded, mature and dramatic. The characters are not over-romanticised, they portray despicable human behaviour with all its  flaws and manage to effectively demonstrate the distinct separation between the Royals and the rest of society.

Honestly, none of them are particularly attractive; King George (Bertie) is self-doubting yet supremely arrogant, partly as a result of the bullying by his father and the really rather unpleasant Edward VIII and self-serving Wallace-Simpson.  Australian Lionel Logue could be described as a social climber, failed actor, as well as economic with the truth, having no qualifications in his profession as a speech therapist. Queen Elizabeth is snooty and dismissive of anyone not of her status. They are not a pleasant bunch. The only character who is eminently likeable is Myrtle Logue, warmly and generously played by Katy Stephens. 

In contrast to the film, while clearly the relationship between Logue and Bertie is fundamental, are the much wider implications of the affair of Edward VIII and Wallace-Simpson, the outbreak of WWII, and comment on the difficulties of managing relationships between the classes of the time. The additional political content missing from the film is mostly delivered by the characters of Churchill, Stanley Baldwin and the Archbishop of Canterbury here in the play, sharply played by Nicholas Blane, Martin Turner and William Hoyland. As Seidler states in interview ‘they’re like the old guys in the Muppets (…) naughty, mischievous and very funny’. Indeed. 

Jason Donovan (Lionel Logue) and Raymond Coulthard (Bertie) are outstanding. Both give excellent performances and have a tangible stage chemistry. This gives the interplay between them a certain gravity in the serious episodes and a real warmth to the many moments of humour and indeed hilarity. Donovan’s impeccable performance demonstrates that he is a character actor of great ability and sensitivity and heralds the start of another period in his career. 

It is not only Donovan’s who stands out; Raymond Coulthard as Bertie is superb; detached and, although one dimensional at the start, the gradual rounding out of the future King of England by Coulthard is brilliant. His performance is controlled and impressive. 

Tom Piper has created an imaginative and apparently intriguingly simple set where a few props transform the stage into the various setttings.

A very moving production. Exemplary on all fronts. Great stuff.

booking until Saturday 9th at MK theatre and then on tour

Booking fees apply



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Many thanks, Louise. Great review!
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