King Charles III
Having failed miserably for the 6th time to secure a Book of Mormon ticket in their lottery (I shall win one day) I sloped off to the Wyndhams theatre and cheered myself up by using my Christmas Theatre Tokens to buy a ticket for a play I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to see as it closes at the end of January, King Charles III written by Mike Bartlett.
Having lived abroad for a number of years I must admit that I do love the pomp that the Royal family bring and admire the Queen and think she is a marvellous ambassador for the UK. I think we are lucky to have a Royal Family even though they are largely symbolic.
Once a bill goes through parliament, tradition dictates that it is passed to the monarch for the final signature before it becomes law. In this play, Charles III, we look at what would happen if the monarch refused to sign a bill.
Directed by Rupert Gould, Charles III is set in the days immediately following the death of Queen Elizabeth. Prince Charles played by Tim Piggott Smith is asked to sign a bill which would limit Freedom of Speech for the press. Charles strongly disagrees with the bill and after wrestling with his conscience, goes against tradition and refuses to sign. This immediately causes fury and confusion across the political parties.
Alongside all this drama the other members of the royal family are also portrayed with such accuracy that however far-fetched Charles’ storyline becomes you could almost believe it is the actual royals playing the parts. William (Rory Fleck Byrne) takes his role as the next heir very seriously with the beautiful Kate (Lydia Wilson) ever dutiful whilst ambitiously scheming by his side. Harry (Richard Goulding) is having his own dramas, he has a new rebellious girlfriend Jess (Tafline Steen) who teaches him what life would be like without his royal duties.
The style of speech took me very pleasantly by surprise, as the play unfolds you appreciate how Michael Bartlett has created something quite lyrical as the dialogue has a quite a Shakespearean lilt to it.
I admit, a couple of elements in the play bothered me. I didn’t feel that the ghost of Diana was necessary to portray the Princes’ confusion, grief and loyalty towards their Mother, and I also felt very uncomfortable with the complete meltdown of Charles and thought a despairing sad surrender would have been much more believable.
I really did enjoy Charles III, it was clever, thought provoking and questions rightly whether the role of the royal is essentially symbolic and whether it serves any true purpose in today’s world.
As ironic as it seems, as I was watching this fictional debate about the press’ freedom of speech the horrors in Paris were unfolding at Charlie Hebdo. Although the subject of the unsigned bill was almost superfluous to the plot, the reality of press freedom is one that will be debated hotly for some time to come.