King Charles III is a play written in 2014, by Mike Bartlett, in blank verse style which centres on the accession and reign of King Charles III, the possible regnal name of the real Charles, Prince of Wales, and limiting the freedom of the press after the News international phone hacking scandal.
Following the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and his family gather in mourning. Shortly after, Charles holds his first weekly audience with the Prime Minister, principally discussing a new bill for statutory regulation of the press. This has been passed by both the House of Commons and the House of the Lords, and is only awaiting the approval of Charles to become law. Charles however, expresses doubts that the law restricts the freedom of the press too much and would allow government to censor the news and prevent legitimate uncovering of any abuse of power by the government.
Meanwhile, Prince Harry has started a relationship with a republican named Jess, and both Charles and Prince William have seen a ghost of Princess Diana, promising each man that he will become "the greatest King of all".
Following a successful run in the West End at Goold's Almeida Theatre in April 2014, with Tim Pigott-Smith in the role of the future King Charles and Margot Leicester as Camilla, the show received rave reviews and went on to win the 2015 Olivier Award for Best Play. (At both the Almeida theatre and later at Wyndham's Theatre). Apparently the original storyline has been changed slightly since it had its debut in the West End, and will be changing somewhat before the show moves to Broadway, New York, but nothing huge, just enough to keep everybody on their toes!
The stage set is minimal but brilliantly effective; a simple floor to ceiling ancient looking brick semi-circle - as if a castle tower had been sliced in half and you were left looking into its remains, and a tower of three large steps filling the remainder of the stage. This set worked for all the scenes from the opening funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, to the inside of various Royal residences to Parliament buildings. The costumes equally minimal, apart from of course the splendid Royal uniforms worn on public events.
The touring cast, led by Robert Powell (multi-award winner for his portrayal as Jesus in Franco Zefferelli's Jesus of Nazareth) and Penelope Beaumont (Much Ado About Nothing, Old vice Theatre and TVs Eastenders and Peepshow, amongst others as Camilla, are utterly spectacular. By the end of the act one they had you drawn into their portrayal of the individual characters and even been as close as the front row, I even thought some of them could easily pass as doubles of their portrayed roles, particularly Jennifer Bryden in the role of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate. The stand out performer of the evening for me has to be Richard Glaves as wild Prince Harry, who captures Harry's wild side that often landed him in the tabloids. The show has some laugh out loud funny lines including my favourite, "You look like you've been raped by Primark!" , from Harry and his friends when referring to Spencer's choice of outfit whilst trying to look cool, and a comment from Charles referring to Police Officers as "carrier bags" (as the always leak, as in leak information).
My particular favourite bits of the show all resolved around Harry's story of how he wanted to be "normal" and lead a life out of royalty with his new found love Jess (played by Lucy Phelps). The world may be transfixed on William and Kate but Richard made the audience feel a rush of love and empathy towards Harry, and love him for just wanting to feel "normal" and shop at Sainsbury's for "a scotch egg" after hours or go for a kebab; both things of which he did during his relationship with weed smoking art student Jess from Berkshire.
If creator Mike Bartlett ever wishes to create a follow on from this wonderful masterpiece, I would love it to focus on Prince Harry, I feel after seeing the show for the first time this evening that it would be a wonderful follow on!
The tour ends in March when it plays at the Theatre Royal Norwich, and is playing at Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 6th February before moving South to Brighton from the 8th. It returns to the North in March when it plays at Manchester's Opera House.
The show has been a sell out at various locations and is a huge hit with the audience. I strongly recommend catching it while you can! Further information about the tour and cast can be found on www.kingcharles3play.co.uk
Long live the King!
Reviewer: Lottie Davis-Browne
Reviewed: 1st February 2016