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The King's Speech at Birmingham Repertory Theatre

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
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For many of us The King's Speech brings to mind the award-winning film with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. But it was actually originally written as a play. Now David Seidler's drama is on a UK tour and is currently at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

The play tells the story of Prince Albert who was second in line to the throne. After the death of his father George V and the abdication of his brother Edward VIII he is suddenly catapulted to become king. But Albert, known as Bertie to his friends and family, suffers from a debilitating stammer which makes public speaking his worst nightmare.

The King's Speech, Birmingham Rep, Jason Donovan, Raymond Coulthard
Jason Donovan and Raymond Coulthard in The King's Speech

Enter maverick Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue whose methods include encouraging the king to swear profusely, to sing and dance his words and to dig into a very uncomfortable childhood.

As war with Germany looms and the country looks to its new king for leadership the two men work together to prepare the now King George VI to deliver the King's Speech.

Raymond Coulthard has worked hard to perfect Albert/George. He has studied the former monarch's mannerisms and can reflect them as he struggles to overcome his speech impediment.

Jason Donovan as Lionel Logue clearly has no problems with the Australian accent and steps comfortably into the shoes of the speech therapist. With a stage career largely built on musicals, this is a fresh role for Donovan and one he performs without hesitation.

The duo are given strong support from Claire Lams as a clip-voiced Queen Elizabeth and Katy Stephens as Logue's wife Myrtle who is torn between love for her husband and a desire to return back to Australia.

Directed by Birmingham Repertory Theatre artistic director Roxana Silbert, the stage show has some wonderful moments such as the opening scene when the king is literally dressed from head to foot without having to lift a finger.

The set, designed by Tom Piper, resembles a large wooden amphitheatre which can rapidly transform from Logue's study to Westminster Abbey.

Seidler's play takes us inside Buckingham Palace to show us a man torn apart by his desire to do the right thing. George is desperate for a quiet life and yet circumstances ensure he will have anything but. The entire play raises huge questions about the role of the monarch. At one point we are asked whether the King is beholden to the nation or vice versa and there is no easy answer.
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When: 25 February - 7 March 2015
Where: The HOUSE at The REP
Cost: 12.50 35 (Concessions and group discounts available)
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