REVIEW: King Charles III at Chichester Festival Theatre

Robert Powell as King Charles III. Picture: Richard Hubert Smith
Robert Powell as King Charles III. Picture: Richard Hubert Smith
Tom Chambers as Bobby in Crazy For You. Picture by Richard Davenport

REVIEW: Crazy For You, at Mayflower Theatre in Southampton

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Wills and Kate – one’s the son of the people’s princess, the other is fast becoming her successor.

Media darlings and our future monarchs, they are loved by this nation and many others.

King Charles III won the Olivier Award this year for Best New Play, and it deserves the acclaim

But if you see this show you might feel differently.

Mike Bartlett’s play is Shakespeare for the modern age. Written in blank verse, like the Bard’s, it documents the reign of Prince Charles in the weeks following his mother’s passing.

The joy of King Charles III is that it takes the public personas of the royals, spun by the media out of the little we really know about them, and turns them on their head.

Charles, a controversial figure due to his outspoken political views, is here a tragic hero, fighting for the voice of his people when their supposed democratic representatives in Parliament try to pass a law that censors the freedom of the press.

In contrast, Kate, the media’s favourite mannequin, is a ruthless political gameplayer determined to secure her place and those of her children in the annals of history. Think Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones meets Lady Macbeth.

Other Shakespearean tropes and archetypes are present – soliloquies, for example – and the prophetic shade of Lady Diana, who cuts a much more attractive figure than the witches of Macbeth.

This doesn’t mean the play is high brow. Far from it.

Harry’s all-night drinking benders take him to clubs and a kebab house, where he gets advice from the man serving him his doner as Mariah Carey quietly croons on the radio. Camilla has a telenovela moment when she slaps William. Kate drops the f-bomb.

King Charles III won the Olivier Award this year for Best New Play, and it deserves the acclaim. It does what all good theatre should – capture the zeitgeist and make this old form of entertainment feel young again. Lorde’s Royals, which played as we left, is a case in point.

It goes without saying that this isn’t an accurate biography of the royal family. Leave your preconceptions at the door and enjoy a two hour dramatisation of an all-too-believable political crisis, and a family drama of a father trying to do best by his polar opposite sons. You might even like Camilla.

Until Saturday.