King Charles III

Mike Bartlett's beautifully worded imagining of a constitutional crisis without a constitution invites us to witness the starkness of the Royal Family stripped bare whilst presenting them as pseudo Shakespearean characters in this outstanding production.

A thoroughly enjoyable endeavour, engineered to elicit a few tears, laughs and a little thought.

Robert Powell's delicately perplexed Prince of Wales stumbles from the death of his mother into his role as King Charles III. Trying immediately to validate his crown with inconveniently intellectual ethics, he comes into conflict with his Labour Prime Minister who is attempting to pass a Bill limiting the intrusions of the press. As you would hope, Powell delivers some laughs from Bartlett's one line references to the real Prince Charles' well documented idiosyncrasies but also perfectly settles into tragedy later in the play. His unravelling as he understands the impotency of his own position and his simple, but heartbroken, conversations with his sons engender real sympathy for a man who only moments before had been trying to install a tank in front of Buckingham Palace.

Princes William and Harry, alongside Kate Middleton, provide a semi comedic subplot involving Prince Harry, as his namesake Hal, tearing off to nightclubs and kebab shops before failing in love with a girl in biker boots. Richard Glaves demonstrates the power of the play’s iambic verse in Harry’s finest scene as he passionately declares his love. Jessica Bryden is superb as – a Lady Macbeth inspired – Kate Middleton opposite Ben Righton’s Prince William, intent on betraying his father.

Even the play’s weaknesses come across as purposeful winks to Shakespeare, with the odd pacing necessitated by a late interval and with a mad rush, building to an acrophobic climatic final scene. The set is simple, atmospheric, and satisfyingly medieval conveying the cold reality of the Royal Family. With understated staging countered by some stunning set-pieces involving Jocelyn Pook's solemn choral singing, these musical scenes can seem somewhat out of place, although they add vigour to what is otherwise fairly sedate but effective direction.

A thoroughly enjoyable endeavour, engineered to elicit a few tears, laughs and a little thought. 

Reviews by Julia French

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Performances

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The Blurb

Following a sold-out run at the Almeida Theatre and a critically acclaimed West End season, Mike Bartlett’s multi award-winning new play King Charles III embarks on a UK tour.

The Queen is dead: after a lifetime of waiting, the prince ascends the throne. A future of power. But how to rule?

Directed by the Almeida Theatre’s artistic director Rupert Goold, this ‘bracingly provocative and outrageously entertaining new play’ (The Independent) explores the people underneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of our democracy, and the conscience of Britain's most famous family.

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