Tuesday, 27 January 2015

REVIEW: King Charles III

King Charles III (Wyndham's Theatre)
I have been excited to see this production after several friends recommended it to me, and it is closing at the Wyndham Theatre at the end of the month, so I got in there just in time.

To be honest, I'm still absorbing the impact, and I feel I'll take more from it as time goes on!

Image Source: theatreexplorer.com

The play forces us to think about the future, about the role of the monarchy in modern life, about individual freedoms, about the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, about the restrictions of society, our perceptions of the established hierarchy, censorship, the position of the government, and so much more. I laughed, I cried, I clutched my boyfriends arm in horror. It was a roller-coaster of emotions!

Written in blank verse, the meter feels very Shakespearian and highbrow, although modern language is used throughout. Mike Bartlett's script is wonderfully witty ("You look like you've been raped by Primark" being one of my favourite lines), poignant and thought-provoking, and Charles is brought to touching life by the glorious Tim Pigott-Smith who completely inhabited the character, making him lovable, slightly ridiculous, determined and confused simultaneously. I sobbed during the final confrontation, and throughout the final scene; whispering to my boyfriend "The scary thing is, we will see this happen in our lifetime..."

Stand out cast members also included Richard Goulding as Prince Harry, struggling to reconcile his position within the monarchy, the family, and the country as he falls in love with the republican commoner Jess (played by Tafline Steen). Lydia Wilson was a scheming Kate; her speech to the audience as she acknowledged and dropped the mask she is forced to wear was beautifully Machiavellian, and I don't think I shall ever look at a picture of the Duchess Of Cambridge in the same way again! Having said that, though, all of the actors were wonderful: those playing members of the Royal Family having such a difficult job portraying people whose image, actions and mannerisms are so well known across the world.

Image Source: theguardian.com

The set was sumptuous and minimalistic at the same time, with the cast taking part in the moving of props to denote scene changes: otherwise it recalled to me the altar of Westminster Abbey and was beautifully lit throughout. The music supported the action well; the opening funeral sequence sent shivers down my spine (not least because of whoever was singing the bass line - those notes!).

I hope this play returns soon: the initial three month run was extended for a month to the end of January but I wish it could stay longer as I would love to see it again, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

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