|Tim Pigott-Smith, Photo: Joan Marcus|
The Next Royal Coronation Isn’t in Line With What You’d Expect
By Lauren Yarger
Royal watchers, beware!
Royal watchers, beware!
One of the latest transfers to Broadway from London’s West End is all about William and Kate, Prince Harry and other members of England’s royal family, but don’t be deceived. King Charles III is a rather dark drama about what happens when Prince Charles prepares to take over as King following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
In the midst of a flurry of new show openings on Broadway, I didn’t do my homework on this show before arriving at the Music Box Theatre, where Set and Costume Designer Tom Scutt has done a nifty job of blending stone palace walls and platforms on stage with the theater’s actual columns and crystal light fixtures. Theatergoers feel as though they really are enjoying a royal audience.
The artwork for the show, depicting Prince Charles with his mouth taped shut, along with the subtitle “A Future History Play” made me think I was attending a comedy. After all, when a staging about the death of a queen who is still sitting on the throne wins the Olivier for Best New Play, it can only be a parody, right?
Wrong, I immediately found out. This two-hour and 30-minute play by Mike Bartlett is quite serious, and presented in blank verse to give it a modern Shakespeare feel (as all tragedies about kings should be). It jolts away any expectations that humor is the playwright’s intention.
Tim Pigott-Smith (TV’s “The Jewel in the Crown”) reprises his role as troubled Prince – now King—Charles, who has no idea how to reign because his mother has ruled for so long that he never really got a chance to see what he could accomplish before being an old man himself. And no one really wants him to be king any way, it seems. Camilla (Margot Leicester) is more than willing to take her place on the throne beside her husband, but she’s not exactly popular either. And there’s an annoying ghost of Charles’ first wife, Diana (Sally Scott), who keeps showing up to complicate matters (very Shakespearian).
The king’s first meeting with Prime Minister Evans (Adam James) doesn’t go so well. Charles is reluctant to sign a bill that would restrict freedom of the press. The King, really doesn’t get a say, Evans tells him. He is just supposed to sign whatever the government passes…. Charles disagrees and comes up with a surprising solution that triggers an unprecedented crisis for the monarchy.
Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) is of little help – he gets pushed further away from the throne every time his brother has a child, so he turns his attentions to parties and having fun. His latest love interest is Jess (Tafline Steen), an anti-establishment artist type who definitely doesn’t fit in at Buckingham Palace. Harry wants to renounce any claim to the throne and live life as a commoner with her.
Meanwhile, Prince William (Oliver Chris) does have a vested interest in the legacy his father leaves him as the next monarch, so he steps up to be a mediator between Charles and his subjects who are in revolt. Will is manipulated into further action by his wife Kate (Lydia Wilson), whose stunning good looks and charming ways with the press mask the fact that this commoner-turned-Royal might just be the most ambitious of all of the House of Windsor characters.
Enhancing the interesting production is Director Rupert Goold’s punctilious casting of solid actors who look very much like the real-life people they are portraying. In addition, musical composition by Jocelyn Pook helps set the mood.
While the story held my interest, I couldn’t shake the feeling that all of this was somewhat disrespectful to the queen and her family.
King Charles III reigns at the Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th St., NYC through Jan. 31. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $37 - $149: kingcharlesiiibroadway.com
Tim Pigott-Smith…. King Charles III
Anthony Calf…. Mr. Stevens
Oliver Chris…. William
Richard Goulding…. Harry
Nyasha Hatendi…. Spencer, Nick, Sir Gordon
Adam James…. Mr. Evans
Margot Leicester…. Camilla
Miles Richardson…. James Reiss
Tom Robertson…. Cootsey, Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Michael
Sally Scott…. Sarah, ghost, TV Producer
Tafline Steen…. Jess
Lydia Wilson…. Kate
Peter Bradbury, Lucas Hall, Rachel Spencer Hewitt, Gordana Rashovich and Harry Smith…. Ensemble.