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The King’s Speech – An Enjoyable Night at the Theatre

This production of The King’s Speech is definitely worth an evening in the theater. Many know the story or have learned it from watching the great movie of the same name. But in case you don’t know it a short synopsis is helpful before you go.

The play is written by David Seidler and this production is directed by Michael Wilson. It is about a difficult time in England. King George V dies and David (Jeff Parker) his older son is to become King. But David falls in love with a Baltimore socialite Wallis Simpson (Tiffany Scott) who is twice divorced and rather than give her up as the government demands if he is to become King he abdicates the throne leaving it to his younger brother Albert (known as Bertie) and played to perfection by Nick Westrate. England is about to enter the war and Bertie is shy and fragile with a stammer and seemingly not well equipped to lead the nation on the brink of war.

The story is about how Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Maggie Lacey) helps him to find a speech therapist to overcome his stammer, which has held him back all his life, as he is thrust onto the world stage after the abdication of his older brother. She finds an unconventional Harley Street speech therapist, Lionel Logue wonderfully and believably played by Michael Bakkensen who becomes not only his speech therapist but his friend. Their success or failure as therapist and patient and as unexpected friends, will seal their destiny, the destiny of England and perhaps the world, in this compelling true story.

Courtesy Liz Lauren for National Theatre
Courtesy Liz Lauren for National Theatre

The play revolves around the interactions with the famous personages of the time in England including Winston Churchill (Kevin Gudahl) who brings strength to his performance and always commands the stage and the Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang (Noble Shropshire) who brings humor and a dose of reality as we follow the interactions between the Church of England and the monarchy at the time. We find ourselves cheering for Bertie as he finally speaks up and confronts the Archbishop.

The sets are beautifully conceived by Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet with interesting and effective by Lighting Designer Howell Binkley. The costumes are beautifully imagined by David C. Woolard.

I question a little of the direction as when Bertie is having one of his arguments with Lionel and he is first talking to him from a box in the theater and then comes down into the audience and walks down the aisle back to the stage. There seems to be no benefit to the production for this to happen and my only thought was once they got him in the box maybe that was the only way to get Bertie back on the stage. But again that is a minor quibble.

The entire cast is good but I found the play does drag a little in the first act. But then all the big action takes place in the second act and the pace picks up dramatically and you leave the theater glad you came to see this show.


The King’s Speech will be at the National Theatre through February 16th.