This is an engaging, thought-provoking play, that falls a bit short of the goals it sets for itself. King Charles III is set in an indeterminate “near future” just after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, as Prince Charles prepares to take the throne. But is he truly prepared?
On the upside, playwright Mike Bartlett delves very intelligently into the paradoxes of being a monarch in a 21st Century constitutional monarchy. He thoroughly probes the question of how a monarch can wield power at all now, without seeming like – or actually being – a dictator.
The problem is, Bartlett has to really push credibility to make his points. The first bill for the new king to sign is a significant curb on freedom of the press, submitted by a Prime Minister from the Labour party – not a likely scenario, no matter how skeevy the British press is. And the MacGuffins just pile on from there.
I’m not complaining a lot, I’m actually happy to be generous in suspending disbelief to look into the very interesting problems that Bartlett poses. It would be a lot easier to do if Bartlett had set the story in a fictional country, with a fictional royal family. That, however, would probably not sell nearly as many tickets.
Director Rupert Goold has done a good job of evoking these familiar personages, particularly in the work he has done with Tim Piggott-Smith, who captures both the world-weary Charles that we’re familiar with, and the firebrand Bartlett imagines him becoming (or more accurately requires him to become to pose the pertinent questions). All in all, King Charles III is expertly put together, and well worth seeing.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.