Image courtesy of washingtonpost.com
By Jacqueline Jedrych
David Seidler’s original play The King’s Speech debuted at The National Theater on February 11, 2020 and will run until February 16. The show inspired the 2010 film by the same name which won 4 Oscars and a slew of other awards and recognition. The National Theater’s run will mark the eleventh in the 2019-2020 Broadway at The National series. Tickets can be purchased at TheNationalDC.com, by calling 1-800-514-3849, or at the National Theatre Box Office (Monday-Friday from 12 pm-6 pm and two hours prior to every performance) at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in downtown Washington, D.C.
The King’s Speech is the story of Bertie, King George VI of England, who developed a stutter at a very young age. Bertie’s stutter causes his family to ridicule him, his nation to view him as weak. The stutter even led him to consider himself unfit to be king. As the second son, he was never expected to actually ascend to the throne, but when his father dies and his older brother abdicates, he is forced to confront his debilitating stutter and lack of confidence. With the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue, he delivers his royal address to the nation. He studies under his instruction, using different techniques to practice his speech. When the time comes for him to be coronated, he invites Logue. However, after some research by the archbishop, Logue is revealed as a charlatan. He holds no medical degree and is really just a failed actor. As his wife implores him to move back home to Australia, he faces a difficult decision and the king faces a difficult task: a radio speech.
Bertie, played by Nick Westrate, struggles throughout the show to face the confidence issues he has which are caused by his stutter. Westrate handled the complex character of King George VI admirably. The stutter could have been more pronounced, but Westrate used his mannerisms and physicality to effectively portray Bertie’s big character. His chemistry with his wife and begrudging friendship with his speech therapist felt natural and authentic.
Elizabeth, Bertie’s attentive wife, was played by Maggie Lacey. Lacey delivered an uneven performance. At times, her inflection felt strange and some jokes were lost in the delivery. However, Lacey carried herself with the regal poise of a queen-to-be.
Lionel Logue, Bertie’s speech therapist and confidant, portrayed by Michael Bakkensen, well-utilized his swaggering confidence. His character’s spotty Australian accent added to his fraudulent backstory.
The set, a forced perspective of the corner of a room, was well-constructed and clean. The real star of the technical aspects, however, was the lighting. In lieu of changing the whole set, the projections changed from wallpaper to crowds to a throne room. It was made even more realistic by the overhead spots on the actors, making sure that the projections didn’t mar the actors and take the audience out of the moment.
The King’s Speech at The National Theater was an emotional performance that blended historical accuracy with fantastic storytelling. The actors gave realistic performances and the tech was clean and effective, delivering a show that brought the audience to their feet.