Our local cinema of choice, The Spectrum, did something different for them; they showed a series of recorded plays from National Theatre Live!, the “groundbreaking project to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world.”
It IS essentially a filmed play, but because of the camerawork, and perhaps the unseen audience, it felt more like being AT a play than merely watching one on screen. “National Theatre Live launched in June 2009 with a broadcast of the… production of Phèdre with Helen Mirren.”
My first NTL experience was seeing Helen Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience, a role for which she would eventually gain her first Tony award for the Broadway adaptation. Indeed, The Wife and I saw this production shortly after the Tony win, in early July 2015.
Why else did this theater magic work? The “butler” in the play announced certain information, like a fire marshal might before the play. There were costume changes just off-stage. There was an intermission, during which we learned about the various costumes.
Perhaps my favorite part was at the end, listening to Helen Mirren being interviewed by director Stephen Daldry, recorded during her run of the American production in 2015. We learn that while the play is mostly the same when it comes to her meeting with most of the Prime Ministers, the writers kept putting in current references when the current PM, David Cameron, has his audience with the Queen. She also shared a tale about a time when Bill and Hillary Clinton were present, and she, teasingly, really directed a snarky line about the US Presidency right at the 42nd occupant.
Of course, The Audience was not the first time Helen Mirren has played QEII. She won an Oscar for playing the title role in the 2006 movie, The Queen. She has also played the title character in the TV miniseries Elizabeth I (2005); The Queen (voice) in The Prince of Egypt (1998); The Snow Queen (voice) in The Snow Queen (1995); and Queen Charlotte in The Madness of King George (1994). Coincidentally, she was born at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in West London in 1945.