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Helen Mirren receives high praise for playing the Queen in stage play

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Dame Helen Mirren has received high praise for her portrayal of the Queen in a new stage play.

The actress - who previously played the monarch in 2006 movie The Queen - has reprised the role in Peter Morgan's The Audience, which opened at the Gielgud Theatre on Tuesday night (March 5).

Helen Mirren as The Queen for 'The Audience' press night

© Rex Features / Dan Wooller

Helen Mirren as The Queen for 'The Audience/



Mirren's performance has been described as "magnificent" in reviews of the play, which dramatises the Queen's weekly private meetings with Britain's prime ministers during her 60 years on the throne.

Sir David Frost, politician David Miliband, Les Misérables director Tom Hooper and actresses Sheila Hancock and Gemma Arterton were among those who attended the play last night.

Directed by Stephen Daldry, the play also includes Haydn Gwynne as Margaret Thatcher, Edward Fox as Sir Winston Churchill, Paul Ritter as John Major and Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson.

David Cameron is portrayed by Rufus Wright, and is featured in a scene in which the Queen falls asleep during their meeting.

The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer gave it a five-star review, stating: "In this marvellous piece, with Helen Mirren once again giving a magnificent performance as the Queen, he penetrates at least some of her mystery, with compassion, grace, affection and humor."

Whatsonstage.com's Michael Coveney praised the play's "imaginative range, lack of sentimentality and incisive intelligence".

Helen Mirren as The Queen for 'The Audience' press night

© Rex Features / Dan Wooller

Helen Mirren as The Queen for 'The Audience/



The Independent's Paul Taylor wrote: "The 67-year-old Mirren rises to the daunting technical challenge with a quite uncannily fluid lightness of touch as she shifts back and forth on an age-spectrum of six decades.

"At one end, in mourning black and with a tight, high-pitched plumminess of voice, she's the 26-year-old neophyte, already angling to secure her interests as a wife and mother against the paternalist and patronising solicitude of Churchill... at the other, she's an octogenarian, nodding off during a session with the bland Cameron."

However, The Guardian's Michael Billington criticized the play's format, writing: "However hard Morgan tries, the evening can't help but seem like a series of revue sketches: a kind of 1956 And All That.

"What holds it together is Stephen Daldry's adroit production and Helen Mirren's luminous performance, which, even in a non-linear script, pins down the Queen's steady growth in confidence and authority."

The Audience will run until June 15, and will be broadcast live to cinemas on June 13.

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