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The Audience by Peter Morgan

The Audience (2013)

by Peter Morgan

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Every week for sixty years Queen Elizbeth II gives an audience to her current Prime Minister when they talk over the events taking place within her realm. They are confidential meetings and constitutionally the Queen is neutral. So far she has had twelve PMs but not all of them appear in Morgan’s play because not all of them have dramatic value in contrast to that of the Queen even if it is often simply in her stillness, dignity and apartness. As the young Queen tells Churchill ‘The mystery being how you got so much power and I, as head of state, get none. Wasn’t it Gladstone who compared the British Prime Minister to a dictator? He was right.’ ‘Yes,’ Churchill concedes, ‘but remember this dictator is still a human being. Ambitious. Grasping. Venal. That’s how he [sic] got into office. And what ambitious self-regarding dictator could fail to be impressed by all this? By you?’

Morgan spins comedy and tragedy with Callaghan and Wilson’s relationships with the Queen. Anthony Eden is a villain from a melodrama, faded matinee looks and crumbling principles. There is comedy and tears and exasperation with John Major and the collapse of the Prince and Princess of Wales’s marriage, the fire at Windsor Castle and the demand for royal taxes. But the heart of the play is the audience between Margaret Thatcher and the Queen. This pulsates and rages with fury, deference, fear (the whole palace seems terrified of her) and clash of politics and values. If it isn’t what actually happened it is close enough to be convincing.

A Prime Minister and a monarch; two people with important constitutional roles and both are utterly lonely and vulnerable in those roles. The young Princess Elizabeth says: ‘To have to sit there like a stuffed animal and listen to mad people for hours on end’. To which the Queen replies: ‘A kinder one, perhaps, would be that you’re allowing complicated people, over-complicated people to measure themselves against something unchanging. Permanent. Simple.’
  Sarahursula | Jul 11, 2013 |
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"For sixty years Elizabeth II has met each of her twelve Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace -- a meeting like no other in British public life -- it is private. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said. Not even to their spouses. The Audience breaks this contract of silence and imagines a series of pivotal meetings between the Downing Street incumbents and their Queen. From Churchill to Cameron, each Prime Minister has used these private conversations as a sounding board and a confessional -- sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive. From young mother to grandmother these private audiences chart the arc of the second Elizabethan Age. Politicians come and go through the revolving door of electoral politics, while she remains constant, waiting to welcome her next Prime Minister." -- Publisher's description.… (more)

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