12-17 October 2015
Reviewed by Hilary Whates
Director: Rupert Goold
Writer: Mike Bartlett
We trod lightly, our footsteps taking us to a vast place, shining brightly yet strangely silent. The many people present gazed, so quiet, hardly daring to breathe, as they watched the drama unfold…
Sorry – a bit carried away there. But then it’s not every day that you encounter a very modern play written so exquisitely in blank verse and performed entirely in a Shakespearian-esk arena. And indeed the ‘plot’ has all the hallmarks of a Shakespearian tragedy.
The Queen is dead and Charles is now proclaimed King. His long awaited time has arrived. Every single person in the audience is aware of his lifetime role of ‘monarch in waiting’. Now he has the mantle of King – head of state and all the responsibility that comes with it. It lies heavily on him. My first thought was it is unusual to bring to a play your own knowledge and opinion about virtually all the (real life) individuals portrayed before you have even seen the performance. But in a sense that is vital to providing the edgy power that this play brings. There were times when you could literally hear a pin drop in the theatre – everyone was totally focused on what was happening on the stage and what would happen next. The theatre became our reality – because here was something that could actually take place (well elements of it anyway).
The newly appointed King meets with his Prime Minister for the first time – a latter day Neil Kinnock, very fine and passionate performance by Tim Treloar. It is a meeting of two principled men – each facing a challenge to make the right decision and be able to live with their conscious whilst acknowledging the weight of their responsibilities. This play is thought provoking throughout and on many levels.
The dilemma now is how much to give away. I want you, reader, to go and see this play so I am keen not to divulge too much of the plot – or should I say plots? While Charles is dealing with (and creating) dilemmas, members of his family, politicians and advisors are all wrestling with their own responses and responsibilities – ultimately to devastating effect.
Robert Powell as Charles is quite simply electrifying – an incredible and credible performance, ably assisted by a fantastic cast – Jennifer Bryden strikingly similar to Kate and providing a surprising twist in her support for William – ‘my husband’. The brothers William and Harry – here at different ends of the spectrum in terms of acknowledging the roles life has allotted to them – William aware that his own time to take on the kingly mantel is approaching whereas Harry is looking for a way to live a more ‘normal’ life. The very Shakespearian ghostly appearances from their mother were perhaps a little shocking – and indeed there is no shortage of references to the history of the family – but is very in keeping with the whole modern ‘future’ history that the play is presenting.
It’s a long play – the first half is an hour and 20 minutes – but I really didn’t notice that and I suspect the majority of the audience didn’t either. With absolutely outstanding performances, a truly amazing script and the potential of having seen a future reality (in parts) played out in front of you – there is no doubt that this really was an evening at the theatre to remember and not to miss.
Make sure you head to the theatre to see this thought-provoking, superb, masterpiece soon!
Tickets cost from £20.40 to £42.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
King Charles III is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 17 October 2015. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ