Actress Haydn Gwynne is to return to the London stage in 2013, when she will play Margaret Thatcher opposite Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan’s latest play The Audience.
Gwynne and Mirren are joined in the task of portraying such recognisable characters by Robert Hardy and Paul Ritter, who will play Winston Churchill and John Major in the new drama that explores the weekly meetings between the Prime Minister and the Queen, held throughout the monarch’s 60 year reign, the content of which is known only to those two people.
Playing the opinion-splitting Prime Minister will be a contrast for Gwynne, who last worked with The Audience director Stephen Daldry when she created the role of Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot The Musical. Being set in a Northern community during the miners’ strikes of the 1980s, the musical featuring songs by Elton John is distinctly anti the Iron Lady. The actress, whose TV roles include Drop The Dead Donkey and Consenting Adults, is currently appearing in the touring production of Duet For One.
By contrast, Hardy will undoubtedly feel quite at home playing Churchill, having taken on the part of the wartime leader seven times in the past. To many the actor, who was made a CBE in 1981, is still best known for his role as Siegfriend Farnon in 1980s TV classic All Creatures Great And Small, though he has a stage CV that boasts four seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company and West End credits including Rosmersholm, The Constant Couple and Habeas Corpus.
Ritter’s inclusion in the cast of The Audience explains his absence from the transfer of National Theatre hit The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, in which he recently starred at the South Bank venue. The Friday Night Dinner actor, whose other TV credits include ITV cop drama Vera, is a regular at the National, where his credits include The Hothouse, The Reporter and Coram Boy.
The Audience will run at London’s Gielgud theatre from 15 February to 15 June, following the run of the hugely successful stage adaptation of Chariots Of Fire. Full casting is yet to be announced, so there is plenty of time to guess who might play the other Prime Ministers, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.