The Audience (aka the closest to the Queen that I will ever get)

Some of you may already know this. For those that don’t, many theatres in London sell last minute tickets on the day for drastically cut prices. At the moment, Helen Mirren is in an extremely limited run of The Audience – a play that imagines the weekly meeting each prime minister has had with the queen ever since her coronation. And their day tickets are slashed down to £10.

Me and my friend – who studies drama – made the journey to central London for 7.30 am, and sat outside the theatre as the queue grew longer. Time actually passed quicker than I expected. Got breakfast from Pret, read a book, and chatted – and soon it was 10 o clock and they were opening the doors.

Being 3rd and 4th in the line we got our tickets very quickly. Photo ID was required, and you weren’t issued with the ticket per se – rather a signed voucher with details on it from your ID that they could match up when you arrived before they handed it over. This, I assume, is to prevent ticket hawking outside.  

Any how, we were back that night. I bought myself a programme, I couldn’t resist. I love Helen Mirren. But no sweets or anything. I held back!

We were quickly ushered to our seats, given that tickets couldn’t be picked up any earlier than 7.10pm and the show started at 7.30. It turned out we were in the very front row of the stalls, much to my sheer explosive excitement. It was an excellent view, not like some theatres where you wind up with a crick in your neck from spending the whole time looking up.

It was a simple story. The Queen, and her discussions with the top man of this country. Of course, these are never recorded, and as such are all simply creative notions, but they were laced with humour and emotion throughout…although many of the visitors to England did not necessarily understand some points due to the political in jokes and the British dry humour. Most of them – including my friend – simply appreciated the performance and some of the more obvious jokes.

(I would like to add, this observation is by the admission of my Swedish friend as well as several American and Japanese tourists who had made the effort to see Helen Mirren in action. I don’t mean to sound condescending – I’m sure if I saw an American or Swedish political comedy I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what was going on!)

Helen Mirren was outstanding, as were her fellow actors. David Cameron was not quite up to scratch, but I feel its perhaps very difficult to act a man who is still very much in the public eye and under constant scrutiny…so I could forgive that.

What impressed me most, was that recent events that occurred since the play began to be staged had been written in…Margaret Thatcher’s death, for instance…and the ‘swivel eyed loons’ insult the Tories have been bandying around (frankly the best insult I’ve heard in recent years. Nothing that can live up to ‘You scullion! You rampallion! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe…’ however.) Both were included to great effect. It was fascinating to see a play fluid enough that it could be change in the middle of it’s run. Rare, as well, I imagine.

Afterwards, I waited at the stage door. I couldn’t help myself, given how much I admire Helen Mirren. When I studied drama I would watch films with my favourite actresses in, to try and garner tips and techniques. Versatility was one of the qualities I held most dear…and if Dame Mirren is anything, it’s versatile.

Much to my surprise, excitement, and sheer star struck, stuttering awe…I got her autograph. Look, there she is:

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I practically exploded. See, I don’t generally get that excited over celebrities. You won’t catch me waiting outside a gig for the band, or (usually) outside a theatre, or asking a famous person for their autograph when they’re at dinner. But there is something very special about meeting your heroes. I try not to idolise anyone, I know they’re just people, but when they’re people you aspire after – at least in terms of their career – it can be pretty…awesome to see them in reality.

So to meet David Attenborough and Helen Mirren – 2 of my all time people of amazingness, in the space of 3 days? Well, that was pretty special.

And as for the play…well that was pretty astounding too. It only runs until the 15th of June, but if you have the opportunity, I would recommend it, if only to have a good giggle and perhaps shed a tear or two at the political stars and buffoons we’ve seen over the years…and that the Queen has known only too well.

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