With one national treasure playing another, only the most committed republican could resist the charms of Helen Mirren’s serene portrayal of the Queen.
But only the most committed royalist would fail to feel slightly queasy by the end of this paean to the monarch.
The play is by Peter Morgan, the author of the movie The Queen, which also starred Mirren. Here he imagines the weekly Tuesday conversations conducted between the monarch and most of the Prime Ministers during her reign.
It is all staged in the best possible taste by director Stephen Daldry whose sumptuous production reflects the grandeur and discretion of British royalty.
The Queen is seen here partly as a sort of constant conscience from whom Prime Ministers always receive support and occasionally sense disapproval, and also as therapist to confessional premiers — she is a sympathetic listening ear when Gordon Brown’s expresses his insecurity at being snubbed by Obama, for example.
Centre-stage as Mirren is, however, it is Richard McCabe almost steals the show as an irreverent Harold Wilson, who sees in the Queen a good Labour woman.
Where the play works extremely well is in revealing how Number 10 and the Palace negotiate our unwritten constitution. But whereas with Morgan’s previous fly-on-the-wall offerings, the Frost/Nixon encounters, the Blair/Brown deal, you could believe every word, much of this smacks of educated guess at best and, at worst, an expedient use of poetic licence that opportunistically cashes in on the Queen’s new-found popularity. (www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk)