"If you want to know how it is that the monarchy in this country has survived, don't look to the monarch; look to the Prime Ministers."
—The Audience, Act II

The Audience is the 2013 play which was the inspiration for The Crown.

About The Audience

The Audience is a play written by British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan. The play centers on weekly meetings (or "audiences") between Queen Elizabeth II (played by Helen Mirren) and her Prime Ministers. It premiered in the West End in 2013, at the Gielgud Theatre. A Broadway production opened in 2015, which also stars Mirren. A West End revival is playing in London in 2015 starring Kristin Scott Thomas in the lead role.

The play begins with a 1995 audience between the Queen and PM John Major, who finds his government in crisis and his days as Prime Minister numbered. From there, it jumps back-and-forth across the Queen's reign, presenting imaginary conversations with seven of her Prime Ministers. Transitions from one time period to another are filled by the Queen's recollections of, and occasional conversations with, her adolescent self just as her father has become King. Her equerry appears on stage periodically describing the location of the audience, while explaining the protocol and procedure seen on stage.

Unlike The Queen, a dramatic examination of the days following Princess Diana's death which also starred Helen Mirren, The Audience is a lighter and more humorous look at the Queen's Tuesday evening briefings from her Prime Minister. There are no written records of the actual conversations, and her Prime Ministers do not discuss their contents.



The Audience original Broadway cast

  • Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II
  • Geoffrey Beavers as the Equerry
  • Charlotte Moore as Bobo McDonald, the Queen's dresser
  • Nell Williams as Young Princess Elizabeth

The Prime Ministers (in order of appearance)

  • Paul Ritter as Prime Minister John Major
  • Edward Fox as Prime Minister Winston Churchill
  • Richard McCabe as Prime Minister Harold Wilson
  • Nathaniel Parker as Prime Minister Gordon Brown
  • Michael Elwyn as Prime Minister Antony Eden
  • Haydn Gwynne as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
  • Rufus Wright as Prime Minister David Cameron
  • David Peart as Prime Minister James Callaghan

Four Prime Ministers, Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas Home, Edward Heath and, for a time, Tony Blair, do not have audiences in the play, although the four appear in the final scene, when the Queen stands with her (then) 12 Prime Ministers. Over time, adjustments to the cast were made to reflect current events and governmental changes, although the play has not been produced since the election of Teresa May as Prime Minister. The Broadway production, which also starred Mirren, included PM Tony Blair, and removed James Callaghan, as did the 2015 West End revival. The script was also modified during the production to reflect contemporary events, ranging from the rise of the Scottish National Party to the birth of Prince George.

When the production transferred to Broadway in March, 2015, only Mirren and McCabe remained from the West End cast. New performers include Judith Ivey, Dylan Baker and Dakin Matthews.

Historical Notes

  • Although Helen Mirren was 67 at the time of the play's premiere, she plays the Queen from her first days on the throne, age 25, until present day, when the queen was in her late 80s, using costume, voice and body language to suggest the youthful Queen.
  • The Queen's audience with Winston Churchill includes two issues that were later explored in The Crown: a) the time until the Queen's coronation and; b) the Queen's family name. The scene also features Churchill's explanation how to conduct an audience, including his refusal of tea, also featured in The Crown.
  • The Queen's second audience with John Major addresses the break-down of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage in the early 90s. John Major was largely responsible for negotiating the terms of their separation.
  • The Queen's audience with Anthony Eden covers the events of the 1955 Suez Crisis, which will also feature in The Crown Season 2.


Helen Mirren

  • Olivier Award, Best Actress in a Play (West End Production)
  • Tony Award, Best Actress in a Play (Broadway Production)
  • Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Actress in a Play (Broadway Production)

Richard McCabe

  • Olivier Award, Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Tony Award, Best Featured Actor in a Play

The Play

  • Olivier Award, Best Director: Stephen Daldry
  • Olivier Award, Best Costume Design: Bob Crowley
  • Tony Award, Best Costume Design of a Play: Bob Crowley
  • Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Costume Design: Bob Crowley

The performers and production were also nominated for a number of other less well known awards, notably critics' awards in both the United States and the United Kingdom.