A performance fit for a King

Caption: The festival begins with 'The King's Speech' starring Colin Firth
Caption: The festival begins with 'The King's Speech' starring Colin Firth

FOR weeks now, the critics have been salivating over the release of Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech.

With Royal families tying the knot right, left and centre it’s very well timed.

A Royal biopic is certainly going to pull in crowds of a certain age -those who remember King George taking the throne.

Play the National Treasure card for good measure and you’re onto a winner, what with the British love affair with home-grown talent like Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth.

Already tipped for an Oscar for his portrayal of tongue-tied King George VI, Firth is splendid as the unpredictably moody ruler.

Forced to take the throne after his brother Edward abdicates to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the King looks to speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffery Rush) for help in delivering public addresses.

Their unconventional relationship takes on the subtleties of a mildly amusing double act.

Logue doesn’t tolerate his Lordship’s ways and the King is forced to be treated as close to the Common Man as possible when One is Royal.

With amusing difficulty, the pair become friends as George embraces Logue’s odd methods of physically demanding therapy.

The pair spend time stretching their larynxes and jiggling up and down on the spot to loosen up the King’s jaw, enunciating Eliza Doolittle style but with added profanity.

“Do you know the ‘f word’?” asks Logue.

“F...f...fornication?” stutters George.

Interestingly, in a pre-release interview Firth said he was left to his own devices when tackling the King’s stutter.

It’s a testament to his skill then how he captures the uncomfortable speech impediment that plagued the young prince since childhood.

Even for cynical anti-Royalists, the finale tugs the heart strings. The few seconds of dead radio air before the King makes his speech on the eve of World War Two is perfectly timed and Firth’s tense delivery is nothing short of brilliant.

The King’s Speech is a crowd-pleasing gem, seen through the eyes of a man who is frightened to say a word for fear of what might - or might not - come out.

Firth delivers a strong performance while Rush is hysterical as the unqualified linguist who refuses any concessions to his king.