The Olivier award-winning play, King Charles III took to the stage of Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre on Monday 29 February 2016, offering up a clever, timely, yet at times, gimmicky, performance.
Starting with the solemn event of the Queen’s funeral, the Everyman’s packed auditorium was thrust into a not-so-distant future, in which the Prince of Wales stood to fulfil the long-awaited role of King.
During his first few weeks in the throne, King Charles III, played expertly by Robert Powell, refuses to sign a bill from parliament which is attempting to control what the press can write; an issue which is hotly debated both on stage and off.
Peppered with satire and providing a razor-sharp commentary on society, the play boasted some excellent, well-timed jokes. However, some humour, such as Prince Harry’s excitement at going to Sainsbury’s for a scotch egg with his ‘normal’, left-wing girlfriend, felt a bit forced, like someone was holding up a ‘laugh’ prompt card.
Peppered with satire and providing a razor-sharp commentary on society, the play boasted some excellent, well-timed jokes.
Bursting with Shakespearean allusions, the play tied in nicely with the Bard’s 400th anniversary year, with elements of everything from King Lear and Macbeth to Romeo and Juliet and Othello.
As a huge Shakespeare fan, I delighted in pointing these out, but at times I found it fell flat. In particular, the scenes of Diana’s ghostly apparitions – alluding to King Duncan in Macbeth I assume – came across as gimmicky, cheapening the otherwise solid storyline.
Following a slow first half, a scene reminiscent of V for Vendetta blew away the cobwebs after the interval, with an intimidating group of ‘yobs’ protesting outside of the palace in Guy Fawkes masks. Sitting up a bit straighter in my seat, the storyline moved along enjoyably enough, building to a climactic, and ever-Shakespearean, almost tragic ending.
Whether it was to my taste or not, I can’t deny that the play offered some serious talking points on the walk home, providing audiences with a wholly possible outcome of King Charles’ reign, as well as raising some serious issues about feminism, freedom of speech, the need for the monarchy, and the slippery tongues of politicians.
Boasting a timely discussion of everything from the Bard’s anniversary year and a journalists’ right to write freely, to the inevitable death of the Queen and how – or who – will ascend the throne, King Charles III delivered an almost prophetic play, just not quite Shakespearean.
By Alice Lloyd
Wednesday 02 March 2016
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