Glen and I do not really follow the Royals. We don’t tune in to the Queen’s annual Christmas message, her 64th televised one tomorrow. Didn’t watch the fairytale wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981 or her mournful funeral in 1997. We’re not au courant about Prince Harry and Meghan or Prince Andrew, even though it’s hard to avoid the headlines. The Royal family gets a lot of ink!
Years ago we saw “The Audience” on National Theatre Live at a nearby cinema. Peter Morgan wrote this play about weekly conversations between Queen Elizabeth II and nine Prime Ministers. Although these audiences do occur, and have since Elizabeth’s ascension in 1952, no notes are taken or records kept. Morgan invents the dialogue in his stage play, as he does in the movie “The Queen” (2016) and in the TV series “The Crown.” He’s not offering history lessons, just suggesting views of the Royal family and other notable individuals while recalling historic events through imagined conversations and scenes.
THE CROWN (Netflix) ♦♦♦½
About art and entertainment Peggy Noonan of the WSJ writes: “There’s dramatic license, which is necessary or nothing’s fun, and historical truth, which is necessary or nothing’s understood. Ideally in any work they more or less coexist, however imperfectly. In “The Crown” the balance is far off.” Noonan admits enjoying the acting and the production values but takes umbrage at its careless treatment of history. In watching the series I decided to suspend my disbelief.
This story about a dysfunctional family is too compelling to get bogged down in verisimilitude. The characters enact familiar issues — marital discord, sibling rivalry, substance abuse, bullying at school, an entitled young generation, and more. Where to find happiness? Not in the world of the Royals.
Morgan reminds us of major events from the past. It’s heartbreaking to recall the Aberfan colliery disaster of 1966; a collapsing spoil heap destroyed a Welsh village, killing 116 children and 28 adults. Painful to remember apartheid and the resistance of Margaret Thatcher (and Ronald Reagan) to economic sanctions against South Africa. Interesting to review the controversial Falklands War of 1982. Thatcher’s quick response to the South Atlantic conflict led to a surge in her popularity. Reelected in 1983, she remained in office until 1990, making her Britain’s longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century. We applaud Gillian Anderson’s commanding imitation of Mrs. Thatcher. Her performance alone makes season 4 worthwhile.
Emma Corrin nails the role of Diana, to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. Seeing her and Charles put under the microscope in intrusive ways, however, becomes tough to bear. Our viewing is tainted.
The show spares no expense in cinematography. While opulent interiors may not entice, the magnificent landscapes of Scotland beckon us to take a flight overseas for a tour. Oops. No one should fly to the U.K. these days!
We will watch season 5 — though hope Princess Diana and Prince Charles get less airtime. •
P.S. Glen also gives “The Crown” ♦♦♦½.
P.P.S. Our household is one of 73 million worldwide that have watched “The Crown” since it began in 2016.