Perhaps most well-known stateside for her Oscar-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth II in 2007’s The Queen, Dame Helen Mirren has been providing audiences with command performances on stage and screen for nearly 50 years. Now, she’s bringing the role of Queen Elizabeth II to Broadway in the production of The Audience.
An episodic production that follows the matriarch’s reign from her coronation in 1953, through scandals and drama, straight up to modern day, The Audience depicts visions of the confidential meetings between Britain’s Queen and her Prime Ministers. From Churchill to Thatcher, Major to Blair, and even touching upon the sitting PM, David Cameron, we watch Queen Elizabeth as she grows older, hopefully wiser, and her influence changes among the statesmen of Britain. Though few ever know what actually takes place in these weekly audiences between the Queen and her Prime Minister, the play offers a rare glimpse of what may transpire among these history makers. More a character portrait than an historical fiction, The Audience deftly draws out the humanity in the icon that is Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed, one might venture that the perfect venue for such portraiture is not Britain herself, but the United States, where our national attention is so easily rapt by Britain’s Royal Family.
Mirren herself began her career in show business in roles with far less realism but no less gravitas, often playing in BBC productions of Shakespeare, and later making a serious and scandalous splash in Gore Vidal’s 1979 biopic Caligula, and as Victoria in the penultimate Brit gangster flick The Long Good Friday alongside the late Bob Hoskins. In the 1990s, she became a household presence in the Prime Suspect television series, playing jaded DCI Jane Tennison, a detective with a knack for attracting the criminal element and a penchant for gin & tonics.
With over 103 awards for acting and acting-related causes, among them one Oscar, two Golden Globes, three Emmys, and five BAFTAs, Mirren is perhaps well on her way to a Tony Award with The Audience. Now if only we can secure her a role that will nail a Grammy, she’ll be on her way to that EGOT we know every true actor covets.
UPDATE (6/7/15): Now with her Tony award in hand, Mirren has joked about really going for that Grammy. Mentioning she's looking for opportunities in the books on tape milieu.