Poised, composed and entirely regal – this is Dame Helen Mirren as she steps into the Queen’s shoes for a second time.
Her first outing as Her Majesty earned the actress an Oscar, and her next is already shaping up to be a huge success.
Theatre-goers have spent £3.5million on tickets to watch her in The Audience, which opens at the Gielgud Theatre in London on Friday.
’It’s more like therapy than state business at times,’ said Robert Fox, one of the play’s three producers. ‘She’s like the psychiatrist in chief,’ he added.
‘The play’s about someone who has been around for 60 years and has seen everything and in the end nothing really changes. It’s the same thing over and over again.
‘There’s the similarities between Suez and Iraq .She’s seen it all and what’s kind of fascinating is that they (the Prime Ministers) come and make a lot of noise and bluster and they’re gone, then it’s somebody else. And she’s had twelve of them’.
The Daily Mail’s exclusive photograph shows Mirren, 67, during the play’s ‘Thatcher years’ when the Queen would have been in her mid-sixties.
Mirren was 59 when she made the movie The Queen eight years ago, though she was playing a monarch – at the time of Princess Diana’s death — who was 71.
In the play the actress will portray the Queen from the time she took the throne in 1952 to the present day.
She will be transformed from eager young Queen to the present day ‘grandmother of the nation’, to use a phrase from The Audience’s director Stephen Daldry.
The Queen’s look through various ages will be achieved using skilled make-up and hair designer Ivana Primorac, costumes by Bob Crowley and subtle lighting by Rick Fisher.
‘Her voice has changed’, Mirren told the Daily Mail.
‘She had a terribly posh voice when she was young and it has changed over the years so I can use that. But there’s unbelievable consistency in everything from dress to hairstyle to professional attitude,’ the actress explained.
‘But there’s been a lot of changes in her Prime Ministers. She has seen them come and go,’ Mirren said.
‘In the beginning with Winston Churchill the Queen is the young, nervous ,unknowledgeable one.
‘But as she progresses through them, they become the nervous ones. She’s the one constant, through a revolving door of Prime Ministers,’ Mirren said.
For the ‘Thatcher years’ scenes, Margaret Thatcher will be played by Haydn Gwynne.
Peter Morgan, who wrote both The Queen and The Audience, explained that just one particular audience is observed with Lady Thatcher half-way through her time in Number Ten.
‘It sort of gives an opportunity for them to explore their relationship both as leaders and as mothers,’ said Morgan.
But also, he added, ‘as women who are separated by just six months. They are women of exactly the same generation’.
Morgan refused to be drawn on exactly what occurs during the audience between the Queen and the country’s first woman Prime Minister.
There has always been talk of tensions between them when they met but Morgan suggested we ‘might be surprised ‘ about what went on between them.
However, not all the PMs will be given star billing at the Gielgud Theatre.
For starters, Blair does not have an audience with the Queen and nor do Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, or Heath.
Callaghan got in by the skin of his teeth, the actor David Peart was cast to play him very recently.
Those close to the play believe people are fed up with Blair and also that Morgan wrote films that heavily feature Blair, The Deal and The Queen.
Morgan explained that Blair has a ‘presence in the play but not an audience’.
In any event Morgan does not think history will remember Blair with ‘any great affection’.
Rather he’ll be remembered, Morgan noted, ‘as a born vote winner in a telegenic age’.
Morgan also suggested that Blair has somewhat squandered his post Downing Street years. ‘Not a great deal of public service more self-service’, he opined.
But Morgan believes the Queen’s not ‘a political creature and I don’t think she has party preferences’.
He added: ‘There are Conservatives for whom she had great affection such as John Major, Winston Churchill, and Alec Douglas-Home, and there are Labour Prime Ministers for whom she had great affection; Jim Callaghan and Harold Wilson.
‘She was very fond of Major. I don’t think she had much time for Heath, even Macmillan. I don’t think she particularly looked forward to her audiences with either of those gentlemen.’