DramaReviewSouth West

King Charles III – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Writer: Mike Bartlett

Director: Rupert Goold with Whitney Mosery

Composer: Jocelyn Pook

Reviewer: Marina Spark

Queen Elizabeth II has been a steadfast, unwavering figure in western history, keeping watch and quietly reigning over the UK and Commonwealth for over 60 years. Question is, what will happen when,inevitably,she is no longer around?King Charles IIItakes the audience by the hand, leading it through a possible scenario. Prince Charles becomes King Charles III and attempts to reset the rôle, assert sovereign authority and carry out his royal duties for the benefit of his people. A series of events occur, taking inspiration from Shakespearean pages, and resulting in him taking a step that, in truth, many members of the public expect him to take in reality.

Mike Bartlett has written a masterpiece. The audience isheld on tenterhooks by the flowing beats of iambic pentameter that nestle within the very changing text. The plot is similarly inspired. Bartlett has managed to create a totally implausible yet entirely foreseeable set of circumstances based on actual constitutional law. The elegant, turbulent language tells the story clearly and concisely. The musical language, composed by Jocelyn Pook, creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere and provides a powerful background to scenes involving an angry mob, a ghostly apparition and a solemn funeral.

The cast is spectacular. Each character can find some inspiration from iconic figures from the history books and contemporary magazines alike. Each performer is breath-taking and there are no caricatures in sight. Robert Powell leads the cast in the rôle of Charles. He plays the indecisive but principled character with strength and conviction, interpreting the text keenly.

The set is synonymous with the Royals’ existence in reality; a classical background with ever scrutinising faces peering in to take a look at how the other half live. The cast moves the minimal set about during scene changes with such deft timing and immaculate execution that it appears to be choreographed.

King Charles IIIis a ‘future history’ which in decades to come will be revered in the same way as Shakespeare’s much-loved history plays. The divisive subject matter of the freedom of the press is a very current conundrum which, if that freedom were curtailed, would shake the very foundations of the constitution. Every aspect of this show from concept to execution pleases audience member, wordsmith and critic alike.

Miss this show and you will be missing one of the most important plays of the decade.

Runs untilSaturday 12 December 2015 | Image: Contributed

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