When a local theatre performs a well known play or film, it takes the risk that people will make less than favourable comparisons with the original, especially if the latter had Colin Firth.
This reviewer does make a comparison, but in this case this production of The King’s Speech had the performance of the decade by Alistair Joliffe in the leading role.
The staging was a tribute to the director, as with minimal moving of a desk or chair, or occasionally different lighting, the setting moved between the palace or the home of Lionel Logue. The back projection of original 1930s footage was particularly ingenious.
Through his facial expressions, body posture and voice, which he maintained throughout, Alistair conveyed the anguish of a man belittled and mocked for his stammer.
The impending and inevitable abdication of his ineffectual and irresponsible brother, the man who would be king, was depicted with suitable frivolousness by Michael Seeley. As it became inevitable Alistair portrayed the torment of a man who carried the weight of duty and understood his responsibility, unlike his brother.
Although Winston Churchill is often imitated, Sandy Robertson had Churchill’s mannerisms and speech patterns to a tee.
The versatile Alan Wales as Lionel Logue, whilst having an accent that was Australian-lite, was wonderful as the speech therapist who sparred with Alistair in their burgeoning friendship.
Alan’s description of the duke, as he was before ascension to the throne, as someone who had been bullied, mocked, teased and considered stupid was a succinct description of what many children with special needs feel every day.
The final speech by Alistair, now George VI, as Britain was at war, with the background accompaniment of Elgar’s cello concerto, in the light of the current situation in Ukraine and the fear of escalation of hostilities, brought this reviewer to tears.
The King’s Speech runs until Saturday, April 16, at 7.30pm each evening. Visit www.talismantheatre.co.uk or call 01926 856548 to book.