Will history look back upon the past 60 years as the Second Elizabethan Age? Stephen Daldry’s production of The Audience answers with a Queen’s English-accented “yes.” The West End play that reunited Helen Mirren, in her Oscar-winning role as Elizabeth II, with the writer of The Queen, Peter Morgan, was finally available for New Yorkers to see when a live HD stream of the stage production screened as an exclusive engagement from National Theatre Live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music June 15. Considering the abundance of exciting theater in New York it may seem hard to imagine how a projection of a filmed play onto a movie screen could be “an event.” Except that we still don’t know if The Audience will ever cross the Pond. If it does, only the royal yacht Brittania could possibly stow all the Tonys it will win.
The Queen lives a life of performance. Being Sovereign is a role she’s adopted in what may be the longest-recorded display of method acting in history, at least according to Morgan. The Audience takes us through all six decades of the Queen’s reign, with the 67-year-old Mirren equally at home playing 26, Elizabeth’s age upon assuming the throne, and 86. Mirren’s changes in posture and bearing — from ramrod and regal in 1952 to stooped in 2013 — along with some padding and five different wig changes, sell the effect. She hopscotches back and forth through time, with each scene taking the form of her weekly meeting with the Prime Minister, a conference at Buckingham Palace the PMs refer to as “The Audience.”
Morgan’s selective with his presentation of history, grouping scenes thematically, rather than chronologically, and focusing on only eight of the twelve PMs who’ve served since the Queen’s coronation. Nervous fussbudget John Major talks about using negotiating techniques he developed during peace talks in the Balkans to broker a truce between Diana and Charles, while Gordon Brown (played as an emotional wreck by former Inspector Lynley, Nathaniel Parker) vents about feeling overlooked by the Obama White House. The Queen finds an uncommon friendship in common man Harold Wilson, whose rough-and-tumble Labour views oddly intersect with her own, and tension, though not testiness, with Margaret Thatcher.
Mirren’s one scene with Haydn Gwynne as the Iron Lady is remarkable in its subtlety. A lesser playwright would have scripted a scenery-chewing showdown between the Queen and Thatcher. What’s conveyed instead is a strongly professional working relationship that could never become a true friendship. Morgan, Daldry, and Mirren aren’t interested in tabloid sensationalism — her children are barely mentioned aside from Major’s “peace talks” joke — but in revealing the Queen’s character and personality through a recurring ritual, and how her conducting of that ritual reveals the ways she’s changed over time. The maturation we see in the four years between when she first meets Churchill in 1952, when she’s still wearing her mourning black and emotionally fragile, and the strong leader who confronts Sir Anthony Eden over his hawkishness during the Suez Crisis is a beautiful ripening. It’s a prismatic view of a human life.
Artistic depictions of people in power often emphasize their “larger than life” status. But Morgan and Mirren show Queen Elizabeth as not so much a towering presence as a stabilizing force, symbolic of a continuity and grace that could never be found in party politics. “When you’ve been around for as long as I have,” Mirren’s Queen says in 2013, “The same ideas and people are bound to pop back up — just wearing a different tie.” People generally think that history repeating itself is a bad thing, a sign that we’re incapable of learning from the past. Watching The Audience, history repeating itself has never been more enlightening...or enjoyable.
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If Kourtney Kardashian can blog about being a mom on the foundation that she's popped out a couple of kids, Gwyneth Paltrow can instruct us on the ways of healthy living and whatever else Goop.com is about on account of the fact that she's Gwyneth Paltrow, and Heidi Klum can spout off weird knowledge of tooth-shaped pillows and diet pizzas based on her apparent prowess in staying skinny and talking about weird things, then Lindsay Lohan can certainly act as an expert on going to rehab and never learning anything at all. After three stints in rehab, it's almost surprising she hasn't written a book about her experience, but now she just may be starting to blog about it, according to The New York Post.
But while she can, Lohan most certainly shouldn't be writing about rehab as long as she's still experiencing rehab. There's a reason the Seafield Center in Westhampton Beach, where Lohan will reportedly begin her program on May 2, has strict rules about visitors to the facility and about respecting the confidentiality of its patients. The first rule being to protect some patients who, like Lohan, may be in the public eye, but the second is because a serious journey to rehabilitation requires a committment to changing one's behaviors, and that's a very personal process.
The center offers such strict measures as "social setting detox" in order to ween patients off of the other, non-physical cues that trigger addiction. For Lohan, dipping back into the celeb news circuit by telling her story of rehab as it happens seems to be the opposite of removing herself from the world causing all the problems. Instead, she's just buying right into it.
It's not uncommon for celebs to talk about rehab after they've come through it all to see the light at the end of the tunnel: Robert Downey, Jr. opened up to Rolling Stone about his time in prison and rehab following his raging drug addiction in the '90s. Demi Lovato went on Katie to talk about how rehab felt like "prison" and how she struggled with being kept from her usual creature comforts and habits. But that's the point. They both shared their experiences after they got well. At that point, sharing the story is a way of acknowledging the changes they've made in their life.
But writing knee-jerk, glorified feelings journals for the entire Internet to consume like a pack of ravenous, judgmental hyenas is not healthy for the hyenas or for Lohan. Rehab needs to be a place of zero judgement, a sequestered glen in which the patients can remove the stressors that drove them to their addiction in the first place. Keeping that channel of communication between herself and the fire-breathing dragon of celebrity gossip culture open is only going to hurt her chances at actually making the fourth rehab stint the charm.
And that's not even taking into account the entertainment factor for readers. How fascinating can Lindsay's new schedule of acupuncture, spirituality workshops, and candlelit ceremonies be? We've heard the "I want to be better" speech from LiLo time after time... after time... after t-i-m-e. Is reading it again in real time going to make it any more believable? No. It won't.
You know what will make it believable? Lohan going to rehab without the watchful eye of the Internet, completing her treatment without sharing her thoughts on the spread at Taco Tuesday, and emerging from the process a more centered, thoughtful, careful human being who doesn't turn around immediately and go back to her old booze-guzzling (among other things) ways. Drop the blog, LiLo. Treat yo self (literally).
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
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Finally a brilliantly told fractured fairy tale for children and adults alike that does not feature a grouchy green orge anywhere. Once upon a time a young man sneaks into the mysterious magic kingdom of Stormhold that’s walled off from his quiet English village. He soon meets a lovely young lady who just so happens to be a princess enslaved by a not-so-wicked witch. Nine months later a basket is dropped on his doorstep. Yes this baby boy is the unexpected result of his one-night liasion with the royal lass. The boy grows up blissfully unaware of his regal roots so when he reaches manhood Tristan (Charlie Cox) doesn’t understand why he so drawn to the land on the other side of the Wall. He finally hops over the Wall when a star falls out of the sky and lands deep in the heart of Stormhold. His goal: to bring back the star as proof of his love for Victoria (Sienna Miller). Too bad this scheming temptress doesn’t think too much of the penniless and mild-mannered workingclass stiff. This being a fairy tale the star isn’t just a star. The star’s actually a beautiful celestial being named Yvaine (Claire Danes). And she fell to earth as part of a devious plan by Stormhold’s dying king (Peter O'Toole) to determine his successor. But the king’s scheming sons (Jason Flemying and Mark Strong) are not the only ones seeking Yvaine. The oh-so-wicked witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) needs Yvaine to help her restore her youth. So that means Tristan must become the hero he’s destined to become—and take on witches princes airbourne pirates (Robert De Niro’s Capt. Shakespeare) and shady black marketeers (The Office’s Ricky Gervais)—so he can return home to Victoria. But Cupid has other plans for Tristran and it’s not hard to guess what those are. If all stars took on the human form of Claire Danes many more of us would probably pursue a career in astronomy. But it doesn’t take a working knowledge of the Hubble telescope to see how relaxed and luminous Danes is when she’s not carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. And sparks definitely fly between Danes and Charlie Cox even when they’re at hurling hilarious insults at each other. Newcomer Cox makes a smooth transition from ill-at-ease lovesick puppy to swashbuckling hero. He also doesn’t seem to be intimidated at the prospect of staring down Robert De Niro. There’s always concern whenever De Niro takes on a comedic role for a big paycheck. He usually gets by with pure talent and nothing more. And when De Niro’s pirate crosses paths with Cox and Danes you immediately fear that he’s going to offer yet another variation on his tough gruff Alpha males from Analyze This and Meet the Parents. But he blindsides us by instead going all Jack Sparrow on us—that is if the old sea dog had no interest in the ladies—to deliriously campy effect. What with Hairspray and now Stardust Michelle Pfeiffer’s comeback seems to be predicated on getting in touch with her inner bitch. She’s splendidly nasty and scary as Lamia. And the uglier and older she gets the meaner and funnier she gets. Equally cruel—though more cheerfully so—is Sienna Miller. Providing small but amusing cameos are Gervais once again revealing an unparallel mastery of toadying and Peter O'Toole who kicks the bucket quicker than John Cleese’s King Harold does in Shrek the Third. There’s legitimate reason to question whether Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn has what it takes to direct a big-budget effects-driven summer blockbuster. Remember after making his name producing or directing relatively inexpensive British crime capers Vaughn walked away from X-Men: The Last Stand. Judging by Stardust though Vaughn would have done a masterful job leading those misunderstood mutants into battle. Then again he couldn’t have done worse than Brett Ratner. Based on the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess Stardust possesses both a big heart and an uncommon adventurous streak. Unlike the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which was too long and too cumbersome for its own good Stardust moves nimbly and confidently through a strange and wonderful land populated with noble heroes to cheer for fiendish villains to boo at and gorgeous damsels in distress to sigh over. Vaughn keeps us on the edge of our seats whenever Tristan must think or fight his way out of danger. But he invests as much time in making believe that Tristan and Yvaine are made for each other. He also strikes a fine balance between honoring the sword-and-sorcery genre while playfully sending up its many cliches. The humor’s a lot more risqué than the bedtime story that was The Princess Bride but most of the sexual innuendoes will zoom over the heads of those still too young to pick up on many of Shrek’s pop-cultural references. Clearly Stardust cannot escape all other comparisons to The Princess Bride but Stardust boasts more than enough magic and daring-do to win over those who remained enthralled to this day by Cary Elwes’ brave efforts to rescue a kidnapped Robin Wright Penn. So this is one fairy tale that richly deserves its happily ever after--and for that matter so does Vaughn.
Former White House speechwriter and author Peter Robinson discusses issues with decision-makers, academic experts and leaders of public interest organizations. The program provides facts and information in an informal yet informed way that allows viewers to reach their own conclusions.