If I Were King
By William Ernest Henley
If I were king, my pipe should be premier.
The skies of time and chance are seldom clear,
We would inform them all with bland blue weather.
Delight alone would need to shed a tear,
For dream and deed should war no more together.
Art should aspire, yet ugliness be dear;
Beauty, the shaft, should speed with wit for feather;
And love, sweet love, should never fall to sere,
If I were king.
But politics should find no harbour near;
The Philistine should fear to slip his tether;
Tobacco should be duty free, and beer;
In fact, in room of this, the age of leather,
An age of gold all radiant should appear,
If I were king.
I had an awesome Sunday with Paul and Cheryl, with whom I went downtown to see The King's Speech on stage at the National Theatre! This is the play David Seidler started writing before shifting his attention to the screenplay of the movie, though parts of it have been reworked since it opened in England after the film's run. I deliberately have not watched the movie recently so I wouldn't draw too many direct comparisons, though I can pretty much recite the film so I could tell you every line that was or was not kept in the play. (Yes, the shouting-swear-words scene with all the F bombs stays!)
Lionel's wife Myrtle has a lot more character and motivation -- she isn't merely a wife and mother, though I missed their kids and indeed you can't tell from the play that they have children (the princesses do not appear either, and I missed the scene where Elizabeth curtsies when Bertie just wants a hug). Myrtle wants to move back to Australia, is not overly impressed to meet the Duchess of York in her kitchen, and isn't as supportive of Lionel's dream of being an actor, something he's much more upset about in the play; in the film he seems already resigned to it and satisfied with his success as a speech therapist and teacher.
David a.k.a. Edward VIII isn't merely selfish and oblivious, but a Hitler-supporting villain. There's an attempt to blame this on Wallis, whom we hear is responsible for his belief that the Jews are what's wrong with Hitler's Germany -- he also says she told him his father is dying prematurely to make his succession more difficult -- but we only see Wallis flirt with Edward, much like in the movie. If she's a monster, it's told, not shown. (Critics of the play claiming it's relevant now because Wallis has so much in common with Meghan make me furious; both American, but Meghan is not an anti-Semite who had affairs with Nazis!)
Archbishop Lang has a bigger role, not just manipulative but power hungry, though played for comedy against an outraged Churchill who also gets funny lines. PM Baldwin is only there for exposition and has fewer lines than in the film, as does George V, who is suitably terrifying though I miss Queen Mary. The core of the show, though, are Lionel and Bertie, and they're wonderful, closer in age in this production so a little less like father-son. They actually waltz together as part of speech therapy and we get the historical moment when George VI gives Lionel the medal of the Royal Victorian Order, which is lovely!
After the play we stopped in a souvenir shop around the corner, then headed back to Maryland and had Ethiopian food at Sheba, where we all shared an enormous vegetarian platter with extra shiro wat and three side dishes of injera. I didn't think there was any way we'd finish it but we ate the whole thing. After Cheryl went home, we watched Batwoman and Supergirl (the former, with Kate having to choose between Beth and Alice, much more powerful than the latter, with ugh why are Winn and his man-pain back). Then CNN had the first episode in a series on the Windsors on, so that was an appropriate end for the day!