Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Mirren play breaks audience record

Helen Mirren as the Queen in Peter Morgan's play The Audience (AP)
Helen Mirren as the Queen in Peter Morgan's play The Audience (AP)

It is called The Audience - and the West End play has broken an audience record.

A live broadcast of Helen Mirren starring as the Queen in The Audience has attracted the largest audience so far for National Theatre Live (NT Live), which broadcasts stage shows from England to cinema screens worldwide.

Peter Morgan's play, performed at London's Gielgud Theatre, was seen by nearly 80,000 people in the UK and 30,000 people in North America on June 13 - a record for the four-year-old programme.

David Sabel, executive producer of NT Live, described the success of the broadcast as "exciting", and said: "We were expecting a big audience for it because there's been great buzz but it's turned out even greater than expected."

He pointed out that The Audience was "such a hot ticket" in the West End and said there was no question that the scale of the success of the play with NT Live is in part due to 67-year-old Mirren's reputation.

Commenting on whether or not watching a play on a cinema screen is a step down from being in the theatre, he said: "It's not a second-best experience. It's just a different experience."

He added: "It reminds people of the excitement of going to live theatre."

The response has prompted more screenings of the play, with nearly 800 taking place in the UK and 700 scheduled in North America throughout the summer.

The Audience imagines the private weekly meetings between the Queen and Britain's prime ministers - 12 in all - over her six-decade reign.

Mirren won an Oliver Award in April for the role, and hit the headlines last month when she shouted at a group of drummers outside the theatre to be quiet while still dressed in her stage costume.

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