Director Lou Jacob takes on the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience
By Lou Jacob, Director
Imagine being 25 years old. Your father dies. You are filled with sorrow for the loss of this great man, whom you deeply loved and who loved you. Imagine that – in this moment of sadness and loss – you were also thrust onto the world stage. You are cast in a role you would relinquish only upon your own death. At the beginning of your adult life, your path is set; your role in life is written, and it is your destiny to play it out.
Elizabeth II has been the reigning monarch of Great Britain since the death of her father, King George George VI, on February 2, 1952, and continues to this day. Her coronation took place 16 months later, on June 2, 1953. From the age of 25 until the present day at age 90, Elizabeth has awoken every day to the sound of that ageless bagpipe: the living embodiment of the British Empire. Imagine. How would that be for any of us to live such a life? To bear the responsibility we never asked for, to stand upon that stage through the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, the new millennium, onward with no sign of stopping, to 2016. Age 25 to 90. It is an astonishing achievement and a life, really, like no other, made all the more astonishing for her unwavering constancy, grace, wisdom and effortless grit.
Peter Morgan’s new play is beautiful for giving us the gift of stepping inside the secret world of Buckingham Palace’s Audience Room: a room in which this incredible lady meets, every week, with her Prime Minister, even as they come and go, decade to decade. Mr. Morgan allows us an access that makes no claim to being precisely accurate in a documentary sense. He does give us a seat in this room, however, that feels utterly truthful and honest to what it is to be this Queen and, equally fascinating, to be the Prime Ministers charged with forming and maintaining governments in her name. The Audience provides us with a wonderful poetic reality that gives us a chance to know the Queen as human being, as a very real person. She is so authentic – so engaged with her Prime Ministers as people – that we are gifted with a special time-spanning “Audience” of our own that only theatre can provide.
Mr. Morgan also poses a fascinating question: Does England need The Royal Family anymore? Is the Queen, the eventual King, and their lines to come, of any relevance anymore?
It is such a privilege, as a director and storyteller, along with my brilliant collaborators, to live in this marvelous woman’s glow. I certainly leave it to each of you to respond to Mr. Morgan’s question in your own way. For me, I have come to believe that the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!” A country must embrace its history, return to it continually, understand its own long and dramatic story in order to act with wisdom in the present. It must also see the future with the eyes of both a 25-year-old of boundless energy stepping out into the world, and the indefatigable 90-year-old who is so filled with experience and priceless knowledge.
England’s Queen is alive and well and a gift to us all. Long may she reign!
October 23 – November 6
Sponsored by the John McDonald Company.