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And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

The King’s Speech Review

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On the back of my last article I was delighted to receive, out of the blue, two tickets to see the Kings Speech, courtesy of Showcase Cinemas and their delightful PR, Katie McDermott.

Showcase Coventry is a nicely appointed cinema on a retail and leisure park outside the city. We were issued with our tickets within a minute of our arrival and the staff were all very helpful.

The film opened with the King, then Duke of York, about to deliver a speech at the great exhibition of 1936. For him it was a trial. For his audience, awkward. I felt for the guy like no one else in the auditorium. My knuckles whitened, my jaw clenched, my guts twisted in sympathy. It really was that bad.

Colin Firth played the part well. Not just the stammer, but also the fear, the anxiety, the flashes of frustration and temper. The dialogue reflected our vocabulary and even our sense of humour. Stammerers don’t tell long jokes, we tell wise-cracks, one liners and quick come-backs.

The rest of the cast also performed extremely well. Helena Bonham-Carter was perfect as the endlessly patient and supportive Duchess of York (who my generation knew only as the Queen Mother). In parts you can see her heart virtually breaks for her husband who tries so hard against the odds. My own partner, Claire, often faces the same challenges she did. She shared the Duchess’s anger at the world’s treatment of him, and a special pride at his eventual achievements.

Timothy Spall took the role of Churchill with both hands, a part I sense he enjoyed immensely. Churchill also had a stammer in earlier life, and throughout the war years and beyond he and the king remained firm friends.

Guy Pierce continues to excel in new and diverse parts. He played the role of brother David (King Edward VIII and later the Duke of Windsor) with some zeal. It is fair to say that brother David does not come out of this episode looking particularly heroic. We see him bully his younger brother and mocking him childishly.

Childish mocking is something we grew used to, to an extent. We learn to swallow the anger, and smile. That cold feeling in the pit of your stomach will pass in a minute, just let it go. Or so I would tell myself.

But I think the star of the show was Geoffrey Rush, who plays the King’s unconventional Speech Therapist Lionel Logue. Many dismissed Logue as a quack, a crank, and a fake. He was nothing of the sort, of course, just unconventional. Logue is one of the many unsung heroes of the 1930s and 1940s and deserves a little recognition. He was an actor sometimes, and the forerunner of the modern voice coach. He threw away the rulebook and developed his own techniques in speech therapy, many of which are common practice today.

The story continues throughout Logue’s sometimes bizarre treatment of the Duke. They share an informal relationship that sometimes has flare-ups of anger and frustration. There were many scenes of outstanding humour and the comic timing of the pair is a joy to watch.

It climaxes in the Duke’s succession to the throne following the abdication crisis. The challenges his Majesty faces are many. He must now grasp the role of King for which he was never trained and feels ill-suited. Furthermore his country was about to plunge headlong into world war. The final scenes are the King’s rousing address to his nation, galvanizing them to fight, to risk and to endure. Fantastic stuff.

In all, a film I heartily recommend, as it blends drama and humour so effortlessly. The cast are magnificent and I am sure it will sweep the board come Oscar time.

For more information on Stammering please click this link www.stammering.org

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Written by Nick Gilmartin

January 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm

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