REVIEW: Jason Donovan makes the switch from soap, glamour and high camp to a serious and really rather good actor

23:00 10 March 2015

King

King's Speech

Archant

He famously declared ahead of touring with The King’s Speech that “the one thing I have on my side is I do a good Australian accent”. Jason Donovan, happily, has much more than that in his favour.

He famously declared ahead of touring with The King’s Speech that “the one thing I have on my side is I do a good Australian accent”. Jason Donovan, happily, has much more than that in his favour.

His portrayal as Lionel Logue, the idiosyncratic and seemingly wayward speech therapist tasked with preparing King George VI for an address of a lifetime, is accomplished, assured and a genuine surprise.

Pitched alongside Raymond Coulthard as ‘Bertie’, the king, the dialogue is richly laced with shades of light, layers of darkness and an impish charm. George, the younger brother by 18 months, never expected to be king and his blunderbuss of a father, like others in his life we discover, tormented him over his stammer which was regarded as a fundamental flaw in his character rather than a disabling irritant to be tackled and overcome.

Against the backdrop of Nazism, a flurry of ministerial and pastoral visits from Churchill and Archbishop Cosmo Lang (exquisite performances from Nicholas Blane and Martin Turner) and the cataclysmic personal circumstances and ultimate abdication of Edward VIII, the play stays focuses on the growing empathy between Logue and ‘Bertie’. Their, extensive, shared moments on stage provide an almost joyous affirmation of friendships forged in the most unlikeliest of circumstances as the reluctant tutor and his initially sceptic student lock horns.

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Not for a split moment do we see, or even remember, Donovan as the teenage Neighbour, the bespangled Joseph or as the leading ‘lady’ in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Instead we have a serious actor, with purpose and character who is really rather good.

Coulthard, with his roots also in TV soap, remembered fondly as Alistair Sinclair in Emmerdale, has the more challenging role for sure but their respective strengths offer a near faultless theatrical experience.

* The King’s Speech, Cambridge Arts Theatre, until March 14 at 7.45pm. Tickets £15-£35 from (01223) 503333

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