Theatre Profile: Dame Helen Mirren

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This month sees Dame Helen Mirren’s return to stage in the role for which she is without doubt most synonymous. Mirren’s return to the stage in playing her most famous screen role, Elizabeth II, will likely delight theatre and film lovers alike.

Her portrayal of Her Majesty in The Queen saw Mirren receive some of the best reviews of her career, not to mention the Oscar for Best Actress in 2006.

Therefore the prospect of Mirren returning to the role could be something of a double-edged sword as there will be no shortage of theatre goers queuing to see her reprisal but there is a real risk that the play will not live up to the success of the film.

But we have every reason to be hopeful. The Audience is a considerably broader study of the Queen’s life: framing it through her meetings with each successive British Prime Minister from Churchill to Cameron.

It also reunites Mirren with the writer of The Queen, Peter Morgan who is also making his own return to stage after the global success of Frost/Nixon. So with the same pedigree in place and under the direction of top British director Stephen Daldry, Mirren can hope for as much success on stage with the role as she had on screen.

It’s easy to forget that before Mirren was an internationally renowned movie star she started as a working actress at the Royal Shakespeare Company where she remained for almost ten years playing some of Shakespeare’s best female roles from Lady  Macbeth to Ophelia in Hamlet.

Mirren’s formal training at the RSC allowed her to play all manner of roles from those of Tennessee Williams to her most recent stage appearance in the title role in Phedre at the National Theatre in 2009.

Even when she started to enjoy greater success on screen, most notably as hard-as-nails police detective Jane Tennison in the long running TV series Prime Suspect, Mirren continued her dual life as as a creature of both stage and screen.

Whilst she may not be as acclaimed in both arenas as other great dames like Judi Dench, Mirren’s ability to play both sexy and stately means she has avoided slipping into the typical matriarch roles as she has got older. Indeed even Dame Judi can not have claimed to have played both a prostitute and a regendered Prospero in The Tempest, as Mirren did in 2010.

So as we await her return to the role of the Queen (one of the three queens she’s played in her career) we can assume it’ll be of the more stately than sexy variety. Although Mirren does continue to surprise us.

Tags: dame helen mirren, the queen, theatre profile

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