Theatre Royal Brighton | until 13th February
Mike Barlett’s tortuous play King Charles III questions the role of the Monarch in Parliament. Is it largely symbolic or does the crowned head truly have a say in the affairs of State?
The Queen is dead, Long Live the King! But before Charles is even crowned he finds he is at loggerheads with both of the leading parties in Government. A bill limiting the freedom of the press needs to be signed by Charles to become law. It is just a matter of protocol – or is it more that that? When Charles has reservations and subsequently refuses to sign, he throws both the country and his family into chaos.
Directed by Rupert Goold, King Charles III was first staged at the Almeida Theatre and soon got a West End transfer starring Tim Piggott Smith (review here). This touring production which has a new cast with Robert Powell in the title role and has been slightly re-written for regional audiences.
The cast in the West End production emulated the mannerisms of the royals perfectly, here they are not so convincing yet this doesn’t altogether matter as the people they are portraying are so familiar. As each member of the royal family is introduced there is a titter of recognition in the audience who are keen to see how the story unfolds and whether our stereotypical ideas of the royals uphold, which they don’t.
Robert Powell as the grieving King gives a very different performance to his predecessor Piggott-Smith. Powell is substantially less regal and authoritative but more human and struggles with his conscience and fears losing the support of his family.
Now first heir to the throne, Prince William (Ben Righton) with his beautiful wife Kate (Jennifer Bryden) on his arm is thrown into the spotlight to mediate between the government and his Father. He discovers that he must choose whether his duty and loyalties lie with the crown or his family. Luckily Kate and the Palace PR James Reiss (Dominic Jepcott) are on hand to help.
Harry (played by Richard Glaves) has his own problems, he is young, rebellious and in love with an art student called Jess (Lucy Phelps) and he ultimately he too has to choose between following his heart or fulfilling his duty.
What I love about King Charles III that Mike Barlett has written it poetically in ‘blank verse’ – a lilting Shakespearian-type language which makes it a joy to listen to. This clever play also throws up some very interesting questions. Whether you are a republican or a royalist this play challenges you to see our Royal family in a different and more human light, people forced with making difficult choices that affect not only themselves but the future of the Monarchy.
A regal night out and one to be recommeded,
☆☆☆ 3 Recommended
Reviewer : Sammi O’Neill
King Charles III is playing at The Theatre Royal Brighton until Saturday – tickets are available here.
The King Charles III UK tour is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Stuart Thompson Productions, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Charles Diamond and the Almeida Theatre in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre and by arrangement with Lee Dean.