A majestic royal reading for Mirren: Actress portrays the Queen for the second time

A majestic royal reading for Mirren: Actress portrays the Queen for the second timeHelen Mirren dons regal attire for reading of new play on the West EndThe Audience was written by Peter Morgan, the man behind 2006 film The Queen, which won the actress her Oscar



22:07 GMT, 21 June 2012

dMirren: What... You want me to play the Queen again

Mirren: What… You want me to play the Queen again

Helen Mirren portrayed Queen Elizabeth II for the second time on Tuesday — at a reading of a new play that features Her Maj and some of the 12 Prime Ministers she’s seen during her reign.

But there were questions as to whether or not Tony Blair would make the cut.

‘It was rather poignant, seeing Helen as Her Majesty again,’ a friend who was at Tuesday’s private performance tells me.

The monarch will be the only royal in the drama, called The Audience. ‘It’s about the personal, with the background of the political,’ a confidential source tells me.

Mirren, who won a best actress Oscar for her stunning portrait of Elizabeth II in The Queen, did a reading of Peter Morgan’s script — which is described as still a work in progress — along with several actors, playing the six or seven PMs who will feature in the play.

Morgan, who also wrote the screenplay for Stephen Frears’s 2006 film, has included Winston Churchill, who was there for the weekly audiences at the beginning of her reign; Harold Wilson; Margaret Thatcher; James Callaghan and John Major. Gordon Brown and David Cameron are possibilities, too, although no one would go on the record about Tony Blair.

‘It focuses on the relationship one person has had, supposedly in private, with a succession of Prime Ministers,’ another insider involved in the production tells me. ‘In the current draft there are six, could be seven, of her PMs, but work continues on the play’s text.

‘It’s far from finished and Peter
likes to keep writing till the last minute. The one constant is the
Queen. The others are her Prime Ministers, and they’re moveable.’

Reunited: Helen Mirren is teaming up again with Peter Morgan, who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning 2006 film The Queen

Reunited: Helen Mirren is teaming up again with Peter Morgan, who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning 2006 film The Queen

I understand that those who attended Tuesday’s reading in London found the play ‘very touching, very funny and quite confessional’.

‘Peter has done a lot of background research and spoken to lots of people, in the way he did for The Queen and his TV films about Brown and Blair.

‘There’s stuff in it that people will know about, and some they won’t,’ my source says, although they were quick to add that ‘it’s a play, not a documentary’.

‘It’s not taken from what people have actually said; rather Peter has created a work about what they might have said.’

Stephen Daldry, who is in negotiations to direct The Audience, was at the reading, too, along with producers and associates from the companies run by Matthew /06/21/article-0-13B9714E000005DC-106_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Shakespeare in Love: At a delicate stage” class=”blkBorder” />

Shakespeare in Love: At a delicate stage

Where art thou (to misquote the Bard) stage version of Oscar-winning film Shakespeare In Love To borrow another of Will’s favourite phrases, thereby hangs a tale.

Once upon a time there was talk that a theatre production of the movie —which won seven Academy Awards including ones for stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench, writers Tom Stoppard and Marc

Norman and best film — was going to have a run in the West End.

Initially, Stoppard was going to re-write it for the stage, but he withdrew. So producers Thomas Schumacher, who heads Disney’s theatrical division, and Sonia Friedman contracted Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall.

And all was well until a recent workshop of the script involving various actors and director Matthew Warchus, who has won many plaudits for his work on Art, Boeing-Boeing, God Of Carnage and current hit Matilda (he’s working on a new show by Matilda writer Dennis Kelly).

Sharp words were exchanged and Warchus has now left the Shakespeare In Love production, so the search is on for a new director.

But the play’s the thing and I’m sure all’s well that ends well. We can but hope the show will be ready for next year, or 2014.

Look out! Mary Poppins has turned into a scarlet woman
Image change: Laura Michelle Kelly with co-star Ronan Keating in Cannes

Image change: Laura Michelle Kelly with co-star Ronan Keating in Cannes

Award-winning actress Laura Michelle Kelly, who won an Olivier when she originated magical nanny Mary Poppins on stage, is casting aside that goody-two-shoes image to play a scarlet woman.

Laura Michelle will star as The Second Mrs Tanqueray in a rare revival of Arthur Wing Pinero’s 19th-century ‘woman with a past’ drama at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, Surrey, for a month from September 27.

The play was about as dangerous as you could get in its day, as it told the tale of Paula, a woman who, as Laura Michelle puts it, ‘led a courtesan-type life and then swapped that to become the wife of a very rich man’.

‘It’s almost the reverse of My Fair Lady, in that when she enters the high life, she hasn’t learnt not to say outlandish things and she innocently insults people,’ says Laura Michelle, who also played Eliza Doolittle in Trevor Nunn’s production of My Fair Lady in the West End.

The play is also about Victorian-era hypocrisy, she adds, in that Paula pays a price when a man from her past threatens to wreck her new life with her husband and step-daughter.

For Laura Michelle it marks a return to the UK stage after two years (on and off) playing Mary Poppins in the Disney- Cameron Mackintosh show on Broadway. She took a break to appear opposite Ronan Keating in the film Goddess, which was shot in Australia. She and Keating attended a special screening of the picture during the Cannes Film Festival last month.

Laura Michelle will leave her apartment in the trendy Williamsburg district of Brooklyn for rehearsals with The Second Mrs Tanqueray director Stephen Unwin in late August.

In between, she’ll continue working with Sting at workshops for the rock star’s musical The Last Ship, which is set in Newcastle. And she’ll play Anna in The King And I for six performances at the Muny Theatre in St Louis, Missouri, in early August.

The London 2012 Festival is jam-packed with amazing arts, but do see three short films commissioned by BBC Films and Film 4: The Odyssey, by Asif Kapadia; Mike Leigh’s A Running Jump; and Lynne Ramsay’s Swimmer. Also, Rupert Goold’s splendid film of Richard II, with an excellent Ben Whishaw. Shot entirely on location, it’s the first part of the Hollow Crown (Henry IV, Pars 1 & 2, and Henry V to follow) made by the BBC, Neal Street Productions and NBC International.