Career

Theresa Healey's new regal role

The Kiwi actress is ready to dazzle a new audience.

By Amy Prebble
Theresa Healey has graced our screens and stages since the early 1990s.
She has played a nurse in Shortland Street, a witch in MacBeth and a millionaire media boss in Abducting Diana. But she has never played a queen.
That is about to change.
The actress has been given the nod by British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan (the man behind Netflix hit series The Crown) to reign as Queen Elizabeth II in his play The Audience, being staged by Auckland Theatre Company.
For Theresa (55), taking the opportunity to play Her Majesty was a no-brainer.
"I read the script and just thought, 'Oh God, I can't say no to this,'" she tells.
"The words are so beautiful and it really shows you who she is. At this stage of my life, it's a perfect role to play because I get to go back to when she was 27 and explore that, and I get to go forward to when she's 86."
Long may Theresa reign in The Audience.
Getting back on stage, where actors enjoy more latitude about the roles they play, is something Theresa is relishing.
"Television boxes you into playing what you look like. What they perceive you to be is all you get. So I've been getting all of these cougar-type, slightly crazy women," she chuckles.
"That's why I love the theatre."
The Audience goes behind the scenes of the Queen's life, including into private meetings with her prime ministers, from Sir Winston Churchill to David Cameron (played by Ian Mune and Mark Wright respectively).
Because it's set behind closed doors, theatregoers are treated to a different side of the Queen.
"We get to see some of her humour. She's very dry and quite funny," Theresa says.
"The Crown is very dramatic, and there's some big, heavy stuff in this too, but it has some very funny moments in it, which the audience will love."
Theresa has thoroughly enjoyed delving into the Queen's life to prepare for the role.
"There's a real spiritual element, which I loved looking into. As the Pope is to Catholics, she is the head of the Church of England. She truly believes that God called her to do this job.
"The vows she took on her Coronation Day were very similar to the vows a priest or a nun take, and she has lived by those rules and obeyed them. I've never really been a royalist or really had strong feelings either way, but I've come to respect the job she's done and how she's done it."
Theresa just can't wait to get back on stage.
Given how familiar the world is with the longest-reigning monarch, Theresa is not going to try and impersonate her.
"For most of us, she's been here our whole lives. She's like our parents or God or something. I can't impersonate her... I'm going to try to make her real. It's just going to be my interpretation of her."
The play doesn't delve into the Queen's personal relationships and Theresa – who is mum to Zachary (18) and Xavier (15) – admits she went on a fruitless quest to find any reference to Elizabeth's four children.
"These audiences [with her prime ministers] happen at 6.30 at night − imagine a mother's life at that time. What is going on? You never ever get a sense, and I've been looking for it, that she's trying to find a way to say, 'I really must get back to my children.' There's nothing that says that.
"Charles has come out and said, 'My mother was very cold as a mother. She wasn't the warm, cuddly mother that one might have wanted,'" Theresa adds.
"I'm not like that. I'm such a 'try to do it all' mother. But she's done it for her grandchildren, I think, she's been much warmer."
Theresa says that of all the Queen's prime ministers, The Audience hints that brilliant, blue-collar Labour Party leader Harold Wilson (played by Cameron Rhodes) was Her Majesty's favourite.
"'You understand ordinary people, working people,' he tells her in the play," Theresa says.
"And he's right. She actually does. She cares. She has a genuine love for the Commonwealth and the people. I know that's truly true. So that's nice to be able to play."

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