I’ve yet to see the film of The King’s Speech, the 2010 award winner starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter. I’ve wanted to, and I’ve tried to get around to it, I really have but somehow, I just sort of... didn’t. Which I felt spectacularly guilty about when it did win its many awards and I was left nodding along with people in the pub pretending to agree about how well deserved it all was.
I have, however, recently become aware of the existence of The King’s Speech the play, which, interestingly, existed long before Colin Firth ever even considered reading for his part in the film. Written by David Seidler and directed by Adrian Noble, it tells the story of Bertie, or Prince Albert, who becomes King after the abdication of his brother Edward, who chooses his somewhat risqué choice of spouse, the twice divorced Wallis Simpson over the crown. The soon to be King George VI subsequently employs the help of the unconventional Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue to help him overcome a stammer he has struggled with since childhood. The two go on to become firm friends, working together on now famous radio broadcasts as history and WWII unfolds itself around them.
All of this sounds great. And indeed it sounded great when the film came out, too. But yet I still haven’t seen it. The thing is, now I know there’s a play, and crucially, now I know it was a play first, I can’t possibly see the film before I’ve seen the original play- it just wouldn’t be right.
It’s perhaps worthy of note that we always feel better in our cultural selves when we know we’ve seen, heard or read something in its original form first. It gives us a sense of chronology, a sense of seeing the roots of an idea before we see what others took it upon themselves to do with it. The really interesting thing with The King’s Speech, however, is that everyone has seen the film, the adaptation, first.
Surely seeing the story brought to life live on a stage in front of you, and in its original form, can only ever be a more vivid and poignant experience?
I can’t wait to find out.
And then I’ll doubtless be straight over to the nearest DVD shop to buy the film version, so I can while away far too many hours endlessly weighing up every tiny difference between the two.
The King’s Speech is now on at London’s Wyndham's theatre.