KING CHARLES III (play)
Ends 31st January 2015.
What happens when long-serving trainee King, Prince Charles, gets the top job?
Mike Bartlett's play, first seen at the Almeida Theatre in Spring 2014, comes to
the West End for a season.
(Seen at the afternoon performance on 20th September 2014)
This really is the "supermarket premium ready-meal" of plays. The description
sounds good, the packaging looks inviting, it's obviously designed to be "classy
for people on a budget," and you can't wait to 'tuck in.' And so you do. And
find that it really isn't quite as satisfying as it all looks. A clever sauce
has been used to disguise ersatz ingredients, and the overall texture is
The sauce in this case is the use of Shakespearian "Iambic
Pentameter" to make proceedings sound as though they carry the same grave weight
as "King Lear," even though the play's tongue is so clearly in its cheek as to
make chewing impossible. That's lucky, as the consistency doesn't really require
it. Every time it looks as if an idea is going to be explored, it veers off in a
simpler direction, refusing to mine the fascinating political points it raises
with any depth. Only one compelling narrative twist binds us over the interval,
and the ultimate resolution of the play has been used by others, and feels like
The ladies fare better than the men in terms of performances. Margot
Leicester's Camilla is beautifully judged, and Katie Brayben makes the best of
all three of her roles. Lydia Wilson is ill-served by the script, but makes the
very most of her nastily sexist moment in the spotlight. The writer and
director's fault, absolutely not hers.
Tim Pigott-Smith is a Charles without
gravity from the start, and so lightweight by the end he practically floats from
the stage. Oliver Chris looks like William, and given a stronger role would
probably have made greater impact. Richard Goulding and Tafline Steen do better
as Harry and his lover, but are, like the rest, a plot left to flounder in the
It may all "feel" fine in the theatre, but the monkey felt itself
rejecting the experience more and more as it went on. Precocious and
pretentious? Getting that way. If that's your thing, it's a piece of "event"
writing to be seen. As a challenging and intelligent commentary on the "state of
the Head of State," "Handbagged," for one, did it better on stage earlier this