★★★★ | King Charles III, Almeida Theatre
Queen Elizabeth II is no more. Long live the King! Prince Charles has long courted controversy, offering his opinions about political matters, the environment and been the victim of press intrusion. How will he take on the mantel of power after a lifetime waiting in the wings, especially when the first task is to sign off a bill limiting the powers of the press? How will the younger royals react to his reign? More importantly, what will become of the nation?
Mike Bartlett’s future history play about the reign of King Charles is an unusual but effective piece of thought provoking comedy. Written in a Shakespearean style with dialogue in cod blank verse and abundant soliloquys. Shakespearean tropes abound too: the whispering ghost casting a shadowy figure across the stage (Princess Diana, complete with head tilt, of course), the scheming, ambitious wife (Catherine Duchess of Cambridge) and the foppish fool (Prince Harry).
The recognisable characters of the modern soap opera family that is the Windsors are instantly recognisable yet the cast manage to give them depths and motivations that the viewer wouldn’t always expect. Tim Piggott-Smith portrays Charles as a principled man; misguided and idealistic at times but wise at others, with an underlying crisis of confidence bubbling beneath the surface. Lydia Wilson is spellbinding as Kate and Richard Goulding’s Harry, bewitched by a Republican commoner from South East London, is magnificent. Handsome Oliver Chris is a revelation as a William who is less effete than he initially appears.
Rupert Gould has managed to stage the play as a haunting piece of modern theatre that is watchable and compelling yet also informative and highly relevant to our times. This is a hilarious play that is quite an exceptional piece of theatre following on from the Almeida’s recent run of stand out pieces.
I suspect that this play will go on to huge success and acclaim and wouldn’t be surprised by a West End transfer. Now might be the time to catch it in the intimate space of the Almeida that lends itself so well to this production.
King Charles III runs until Saturday 31st of May
Buy tickets here: http://www.almeida.co.uk/event/kingcharles
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.