The King's Speech stutters on the stage despite the huge success of the film
00:21 GMT, 13 April 2012
The King’s Speech — the tale of King George VI coping with a speech impediment — earned Colin Firth a well-deserved Oscar, and movie-goers made it a global success. But the West End stage version is having a hard time being heard.
The production, which officially opened at Wyndham’s Theatre just over a fortnight ago, has struggled to find its voice and has lost money two straight weeks in a row.
Producers have gone into red-alert mode and deployed a range of new marketing techniques, but it may already be too late to save it, which is extraordinary for a production with a title that many would have seen as a licence to print money.
Struggling to be heard: Jonathan Hyde as Lionel Logue and Charles Edwards as George VI in the stage production of The King's Speech, which has lost money for two weeks in a row
Although The King’s Speech has not yet posted a closing notice, the theatre’s owners are actively looking for a replacement show. Ticket prices have been slashed — although, oddly, the Wyndham’s Theatre website is still charging 85 for so-called premium seats, and 52.50 for what used to be called best seats.
But a few clicks away, on another website, those prices are slashed, so you can purchase a prime spot in the stalls for 26.
A spokesman for The King’s Speech confirmed that the play was struggling. But he said the producers were determined to ‘fight on to see it run’.
‘The decision to close it hasn’t been made,’ he told me.
‘It has been discussed, but they are going to battle to keep it running and build up the audience, performance by performance, and they have a long way to go. It had cracking five-star reviews; it’s based on a film that won Oscars and it is a surprise that it hasn’t taken off by now.’
The story of the personal agony endured by George VI due to a debilitating stammer, heightened by the Abdication crisis and World War II, was originally written for the stage.
However, the script by David Seidler ended up in the hands of director Tom Hooper who, with a little help from Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush, turned it into a multi-Oscar-winning film that went on to take more than 260 million at the global box-office.
The Firth Factor: Colin Firth as King George VI and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth was a huge draw for audiences
That figure holds the key to why the stage version — which features superb performances by Charles Edwards, Jonathan Hyde, Emma Fielding and Joss Ackland as, respectively, George VI, speech therapist Lionel Logue, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), and George V — hasn’t been crowned a hit.
Because the movie was a blockbuster in the UK (it took more than 50 million here), a lot of folks saw it at the cinema. The big-screen release was so recent that one producer joked: ‘The film was almost last week.’
And if you really want to relive the story, you can watch the DVD at home.
And then there’s the Firth factor. Colin was a huge draw, as were his fellow stars Rush and Bonham Carter.
The play’s offering certain ticket buyers a free glass of champagne on June 4 and 5, to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. Let’s hope it’s still on then.
Plan B's the Manor of the moment
Ben Drew, known to many as Plan B, has written and directed his first film — a powerfully persuasive drama about gangs, crime, killers, drug addicts, and a baby dumped on a train.
The film’s called iLL Manors (there’s a single of the same name, high in the charts) and it’s a series of interlinked stories about people who society usually looks down on.
But Drew’s point is that everybody matters, no matter how far down the gutter they’ve fallen.
Ben Drew – better known as Plan B – has written and directed his first film iLL Manors
‘When you get addicted to heroin, you’re gone,’ he tells me. ‘The reality of heroin and crack is that you will be addicted to that stuff for the next ten to 15 years of your life.’
Addicts in his movie do not have an easy time. One character in particular — a young woman — is treated in the vilest manner. But Drew (pictured) knows what he’s talking about, and having reported on such people early in my career when I covered courts, so do I.
One segment has a young boy barely in his teens, played by Ryan De La Cruz Indanda, forced by an older hood to carry out an assassination. It’s the most chilling moment I’ve seen on screen so far this year.
Drew wants teens and young adults to watch and learn. ‘Messing with guns ain’t cool, and being in gangs ain’t cool,’ he told me.
He believes the kids in the gangs and the addicts have to band together to help themselves, because ‘the middle classes and the Government’ aren’t going to.
‘They think the underclasses are in a sorry state — but the underclass don’t think much of them, either.
‘They feel none of the MPs represent them or want to help them get out of their mess.’
Backed by Drew’s soundtrack, the film pulsates with all aspects of inner-city life. It’s often brutal, but full of empathy — particularly when the actor Riz Ahmed is on screen.
He finds the baby when the child’s mother, played by Natalie Press, is forced to abandon it.
The film’s packed with unknown actors, some of whom Drew met walking the streets. He did much of the editing at his mother’s home and was reluctant to give it up to the distributors. It’s out on June 6 — I can’t wait to see what he makes next.
Raison's to book your tickets now
British actress Miranda Raison will star as physicist's wife in a new version of Friedrich Durrenmatt's Cold War satire Physicists
Miranda Raison will offer some healing qualities in her debut at the Donmar Theatre.
The actress, who first caught my attention when she played a nurse on Emmerdale, and later in Spooks, has played Anne Boleyn at The Globe Theatre, and graced many TV dramas.
But now Miranda (pictured) has been cast as a physicist’s wife — and his nurse — in a new version of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s Cold War satire Physicists, which Josie Rourke will direct at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre from May 31.
John Heffernan, currently in the hit She Stoops To Conquer at the National (which finishes next Saturday), will play the German astronomer Johann Mobius; Paul Bhattacharjee will portray Albert Einstein; and Justin Salinger will be Isaac Newton.
‘Miranda comes on as Mobius’s wife, walks off, and comes on almost immediately again as the nurse who’s in love with Mobius,’ Ms Rourke told me. ‘The thing about Miranda is she’s so extraordinarily beautiful, but she’s a fantastic chameleon with a perfect ear and can do any dialect.’
Josie mentioned that she first worked with Heffernan when she was directing King John for the RSC several years ago. Heffernan wrote to her, saying he’d do anything — even stand at the back of the stage. She found him a character with a full name . . . and one line. Now he’s a leading player.
In Physicists, the three scientists are holed up in a sanatorium run by Sophie Thompson, and as the play unfolds, we wonder: who is really mad
The cast begin rehearsals on April 23 — Shakespeare’s birthday. Josie bet me I wouldn’t mention that it is also the birthday of Don Quixote author Cervantes. But I have. So there!