The Audience
Written byPeter Morgan
Date premiered15 February 2013 (2013-02-15)
Place premieredGielgud Theatre
Original languageEnglish
SettingBuckingham Palace Balmoral Castle

The Audience is a play by the British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan.[1] The play centres on weekly meetings, called audiences, between Queen Elizabeth II (originally played by Helen Mirren) and her prime ministers. It premiered in the West End in 2013, at the Gielgud Theatre. A Broadway production opened in 2015, also starring Mirren. A West End revival played in London in 2015 starring Kristin Scott Thomas in the lead role.


The Audience is centred on the weekly audiences given by Queen Elizabeth II to Prime Ministers from her accession in 1952 until her death.[2] Three Prime Ministers are omitted from the play: Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Edward Heath are not featured. Tony Blair originally did not feature in the play, but was added when the play transferred to Broadway, replacing James Callaghan, who was excluded from subsequent productions. Advice regarding the political and historical content of the weekly audiences was provided by Professor Vernon Bogdanor (Emeritus Professor of Government at Oxford University), the former tutor of David Cameron, Prime Minister from 2010 until 2016.[3]

Production history

West End (2013)

The Audience is written by British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan.[4] Its premiere production opened in the West End at the Gielgud Theatre on 15 February 2013, with its press night on 5 March.[5] The play featured Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II; the actress had played the same role in the 2006 film The Queen, which was also written by Morgan.[6] The play was directed by Stephen Daldry,[7] with costume design by Bob Crowley,[8] lighting design by Rick Fisher, sound by Paul Arditti, music by Paul Englishby and video design by Ian William Galloway.[9] A typical West End performance ran two hours and 30 minutes, including one interval.[10]

Following the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who is featured during the play's run, Morgan made a speech to the audience to mark her passing.[11] Subsequently, a reference to the late prime minister's death and the Queen's attendance at her funeral was added as a part of the Queen's dialogue with David Cameron. The production was broadcast live to cinemas as part of National Theatre Live on 13 June 2013.[12] The initial broadcast broke the record for most people watching a production live since the scheme began, with nearly 80,000 people watching in the UK and 30,000 people in North America.[13] Further encore screenings were later broadcast.[14]

Broadway (2015)

The play began a limited Broadway engagement from 8 March to 28 June 2015, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, with previews from 14 February 2015.[15] Helen Mirren reprised her role of Queen Elizabeth II in this production,[16] alongside fellow original cast members Geoffrey Beevers, Michael Elwyn, Richard McCabe and Rufus Wright.[17]

West End Revival (2015)

A West End revival began at the Apollo Theatre, opening on 5 May 2015, following previews from 21 April 2015,[18] with Dame Kristin Scott Thomas as Queen Elizabeth II.[19] For the 2015 production, the role of James Callaghan was removed to allow them to feature former prime minister Tony Blair, and the script was updated pending a general election.[20] Following the election on 7 May 2015, the scene featuring David Cameron meeting the Queen was updated to show Cameron had won a second term and showed the Queen asking him to form a government.[21][22] The audience between Cameron and the Queen was changed several times over the 15-week run in the West End to keep up to date with current political events. After the general election results, references were made to Nicola Sturgeon and the success of the Scottish National Party winning seats from the Labour Party. Other current events references made during the audience scene between the Queen and Cameron included the corruption scandal at FIFA and the Greek bailout debate known as "Grexit". During the last week of the run, a reference was made to newspaper articles displaying the Queen apparently making a Nazi salute in her youth and to the birthday of Prince George.

Moscow (2017)

In May 2017, the play received its Russian premiere in Moscow and starred Inna Churikova as the Queen, along with Mikhail Gorevoy as Winston Churchill and Galina Tunina as Margaret Thatcher.[23]

Toronto (2017)

Fiona Reid assumed the role of the Queen in the 2017 Mirvish Productions mounting of the play at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre.[24] The Toronto cast included Paul Essiembre as Eden, Kate Hennig as Thatcher, Benedict Campbell as Brown, Kevin Klassen as Blair and Ben Carlson as Cameron.[24]

In popular culture

The 'Traviata' model handbag by British designer Launer London received a surge in popularity and was subsequently re-issued by the brand following the use of one as a prop in The Audience both in the West End and on Broadway. It is the style often used by Queen Elizabeth II.[25][26]

Specific episodes of the Netflix series The Crown, created by Peter Morgan, acknowledge inspiration from The Audience, produced by Playful productions LLP, Robert Fox LTD and Andy Harries. The play is cited in the credits of the first, fifth and eighth episodes of season 1, the third and eighth episodes of season 2, the second and ninth episode of season 3, and the second, fifth and tenth episode of season 4.

Principal roles and original cast

Character West End
West End revival
Queen Elizabeth II Helen Mirren Kristin Scott Thomas
John Major Paul Ritter Dylan Baker Michael Gould
Gordon Brown Nathaniel Parker Rod McLachlan Gordon Kennedy
Harold Wilson Richard McCabe Nicholas Woodeson
Winston Churchill Edward Fox Dakin Matthews David Calder
Anthony Eden Michael Elwyn David Robb
Margaret Thatcher Haydn Gwynne Judith Ivey Sylvestra Le Touzel
David Cameron Rufus Wright Mark Dexter
Tony Blair Rufus Wright
James Callaghan David Peart Tony Ward
Equerry Geoffrey Beevers David Peart
Young Elizabeth Bebe Cave
Maya Gerber
Nell Williams
Sadie Sink
Elizabeth Teeter
Marnie Brighton
Madeleine Jackson-Smith
Izzy Meikle-Small
Bobo MacDonald Charlotte Moore Tracy Sallows Charlotte Moore

Awards and honours

Original West End Production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2013 Evening Standard Awards Best Play Nominated
Best Actress Helen Mirren Won
Best Director Stephen Daldry Nominated
Laurence Olivier Awards Best New Play Nominated
Best Actress Helen Mirren Won
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Richard McCabe Won
Best Director Stephen Daldry Nominated
Best Costume Design Bob Crowley Nominated

Original Broadway Production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2015 Tony Award Best Actress in a Play Helen Mirren Won
Best Featured Actor in a Play Richard McCabe Won
Best Costume Design of a Play Bob Crowley Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Play Helen Mirren Won
Outstanding Costume Design Bob Crowley Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Play Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Play Helen Mirren Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Richard McCabe Won
Outstanding Director of a Play Stephen Daldry Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Bob Crowley Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design Rick Fisher Nominated
Drama League Award Distinguished Production of a Play Nominated
Distinguished Performance Helen Mirren Nominated
Richard McCabe Nominated


  1. ^ Michael Billington, "The Audience – review" The Guardian (London), 5 March 2013
  2. ^ Rentoul, John (27 January 2013). "Yes, Prime Ministers!". The Independent. London. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  3. ^ Bogdanor, Vernon (6 March 2013). "The Audience: May I speak freely, Your Majesty?". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Why I wanted to make The Audience public". The Guardian. 13 January 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  5. ^ "London Theatre News, Reviews, Interviews". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  6. ^ Ross, Charley (7 August 2014). "Helen Mirren to bring The Queen to Broadway". The Independent. London. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  7. ^ "Helen Mirren gives a magnificent performance as the Queen in Peter Morgan's marvellous play The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre, says Charles Spencer". The Daily Telegraph. London. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Edward Fox steps in to play opposite Helen Mirren in Peter Morgan's play after Robert Hardy stands down due to injury". The Guardian. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Edward Fox Will Replace Injured Robert Hardy in London World Premiere of The Audience". Playbill. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Another Royal Outing for Writer Peter Morgan". London Theatreland. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Peter Morgan Will Speak of Late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Prior to April 8 Performance of The Audience". Playbill. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Helen Mirren play The Audience to be broadcast live in cinemas". The Guardian. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  13. ^ "Cinema screening of Helen Mirren play breaks record". BBC News. 18 June 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  14. ^ "Writer Peter Morgan and actor Helen Mirren's stage reprise of her film role draws in a worldwide audience of 110,000". The Guardian. 19 June 2013. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  15. ^ "Helen Mirren Will Hold Court on Broadway Sooner Than Expected in The Audience". Playbill. 22 December 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  16. ^ Purcell, Carey. "A Royal Performance! The Audience, With Helen Mirren, Opens on Broadway Tonight", 8 March 2015
  17. ^ "London Cast Members Will Join Helen Mirren on Broadway in The Audience". Playbill. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  18. ^ "Peter Morgan's play will run concurrently in London and New York". Whats on Stage. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  19. ^ "Kristin Scott Thomas to star as the Queen in return of The Audience". The Guardian. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  20. ^ "The Audience play set for post-election rewrite". BBC News. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  21. ^ "The Audience updated with post election scene of Cameron and Queen". The Guardian. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  22. ^ "Peter Morgan Updates The Audience After U.K. General Election; New Scene Will Play Tonight". Playbill. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  23. ^ Rainsford, Sarah (2 May 2017). "Russia puts the Queen centre stage in Moscow". BBC News.
  24. ^ a b "Fiona Reid brings charm and humour to Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience: review". Toronto Star, 20 January 2017.
  25. ^ Friedman, Vanessa (9 April 2015). "When a Handbag Has a Starring Role". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  26. ^ "Images of Helen Mirren in 'The Audience' holding the Queen's signature Launer handbag". ArenaPAL. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  27. ^ "Robert Hardy withdraws from Churchill role in Helen Mirren play". BBC. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2013.