Review by: Paul Towers, 26 January 2016
King Charles III by Mike Bartlett
Curve 26 – 30 January 2016
“Robert Powell is majestically petulant.”
What happens when, after decades of waiting, Charles finally ascends to the throne? What happens if he turns out to not be right for the job?
What happens if he meddles in constitutional matters?
This is the premise of Charles III currently running at Curve and out on tour.
Written by Mike Bartlett as quasi-Shakespearean in iambic pentameter (mainly) the whole story unfolds like one of the Bard’s tragedies.
The set itself is spectacular, especially for a touring production, and evocative of Game of Thrones, not the last time I was reminded of that tale of sovereign battles.
As the cast solemnly file on carrying candles it is immediately obvious we have joined the finale of the late Queen’s funeral and Charles, Robert Powell in majestically petulant form, is itching to take up his inheritance. With Camilla by his side fighting his corner there are more than a few hints of Lady Macbeth as she pushes him to wield his new found power and take his rightful place at the head of the country.
As the drama unfolds we discover several almost familiar characters; Prince Harry is a libidinous Tim Nice But Dim; James Reiss, the palace PR person, is very much in the mould of the PM’s Mr Humphreys and the Prime Minister himself is reminiscent of a blustering Lloyd George.
As we come to the end of the first half Charles provokes a constitutional crisis by refusing to sign off a bill he disapproves of. Anarchy ensues as the instability of the monarchy filters down to the people and unrest bubbles up only to be quashed by the interjection of Prince William with his own Lady Macbeth, Kate, egging him on.
A great cast led by Robert Powell peoples the stage with a vast array of characters in this satirical imagining of what may come to be.
While so much of the story is entirely believable I do question whether resorting to cheap jibes about James Hewitt and cars in underpasses were entirely necessary. Mike Bartlett is such a good writer that he doesn’t need to resort to such easy lazy laughs.
Charles II runs at Curve until 30 January and then is touring
More information at http://kingcharles3play.co.uk/tour-dates/
First published in Western Gazette