Previewed 2 September 2014, Opened 11 September 2014, Closed 31 January 2015 at the Wyndham's Theatre in London
Mike Bartlett's acclaimed new 'future history' play King Charles III in London's West End following a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre in North London.
The Queen is dead: after a lifetime of waiting, the Prince ascends the throne. A future of power. But how to rule? Mike Bartlett's controversial play about future of the monarchy on the ascension of Prince Charles to King on the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The cast features Tim Piggott-Smith as 'King Charles' who reprises his acclaimed role from the Almeida Theatre along with Oliver Chris as 'William', Richard Goulding as 'Harry', Lydia Wilson as 'Kate', Margot Leicester as 'Camilla', Adam James as 'Prime Minister Tristram Evans', Nicholas Rowe as 'Leader of the Opposition, Mark Stevens', Tafline Steen as 'Jess Edwards', Katie Brayben as 'Princess Diana's Ghost', Nyasha Hatendi, Tom Robertson and Nick Sampson. Directed by Rupert Goold with designs by Tom Scutt, music by Jocelyn Pook, lighting by Jon Clark and sound by Paul Arditti.
When this production transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End in September 2014, Neil Norman in the Daily Express highlighted that "Mike Bartlett's extraordinary play may be speculative drama but it is closer to reality than fantasy. And in director Rupert Goold's immaculate production it resonates with a scrupulous topicality. The plot is simple, the extrapolation sophisticated... Tim Piggott-Smith gives the performance of his career as Charles and is supported by a sterling cast who all manage to create convincing simulacra of the Royal Family without lapsing into caricature... Just wonderful." Sam Marlowe in the Times said that "Mike Bartlett's sharp, audacious drama arrives ... in a slick production by Rupert Goold... It's tartly funny, yet serious-minded, with a shrewd deployment of nimble blank verse and Shakespearean motifs that lend it mischievous playfulness... Highly intelligent, and royally entertaining." Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote that "Tim Pigott-Smith gives the performance of his distinguished career as Charles." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph commented that "if you're not interested in the Royal family, the way we are governed and the future of the monarchy and the country - or for that matter, being royally entertained and stimulated for two and a half hours - then feel free to ignore the West End transfer of the Almeida smash-hit King Charles III. If, on the other hand, any of the above applies, then I'd suggest attendance is pretty much compulsory." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard noted "there are confident performances all round in Rupert Goold's stylish production... This is undoubtedly one of the most stimulating plays of the year."
When this production opened at the Almeida Theatre in April 2014 Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times hailed it as being a "scintillating and highly audacious new play" adding that "director Rupert Goold handles it with tremendous flair and wit... thought-provoking, serious fun." In the Times Dominic Maxwell described it as being "bold, brilliant and unstoppably entertaining, this new play by Mike Bartlett appropriates the form of a Shakespeare history play to imagine some troubled early days as Prince Charles finally becomes king... theatre doesn't get much better than this." Michael Billington in the Guardian said that "Mike Bartlett has written a speculative play about the future of the monarchy. While based on a dodgy premise, it gains traction as it goes along and by the end has acquired a borrowed grandeur through its Shakespearean form and a tragic dimension through the performance of Tim Pigott-Smith... The casting of Pigott-Smith also gives the play weight and substance." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph praised it as being "the most spectacular, gripping and wickedly entertaining piece of lèse-majesté that British theatre has ever seen," concluding that this was an "outstanding and provocative play." In the London Evening Standard Henry Hitchings commented how "Mike Bartlett's ambitious epic explores the turbulent politics of royal succession, in a style that boldly mimics the structure and even the language of Shakespeare's history plays. The result is a risky, disorientating and witty entertainment." Paul Taylor in the Independent highlighted how "Mike Bartlett's bracingly provocative and outrageously entertaining new play about the future of the monarchy" is presented in a "pitch-perfect production."
Tim Pigott-Smith, who plays 'Prince Charles' in the production said: "I have played real people before but no one still living or with such an immense profile. My first judgement was on the play itself - if it didn't treat the monarchy with respect then I wouldn't have been interested. I wouldn't like Charles to come and see it because I think it might be upsetting (for him). In the play, he's a tragic hero, a very complicated man. He's fighting for a monarchy which has real meaning rather than being just a celebrity feature. People say 'You look so like him.' I don't, but I've made them believe it. I met him once in my role as a governor for the RSC. He wandered up to me and muttered: 'Any work about?' It was so endearing. I've a really soft spot for him. Jon Glover, who worked on Spitting Image, gave me pointers - the signet ring, the cuffs, the way Charles talks out of one side of his mouth. For the voice, I watched YouTube where he reads the weather forecast for Comic Relief. Those things became my toolbox."
Mike Bartlett's West End credits include adaptating Colin Welland's Chariots of Fire screenplay for the stage (Gielgud Theatre 2012). Rupert Goold's London theatre credits include the new stage musical Made In Dagenham (Adelphi Theatre 2014), Harold Pinter's No Man's Land (Duke of York's Theatre 2008) starring Michael Gambon and David Walliams, William Shakespeare's Macbeth (Gielgud Theatre 2007) starring Patrick Stewart, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie (Apollo Theatre 2007) starring Jessica Lange and William Shakespeare's The Tempest (Novello Theatre 2007) starring Patrick Stewart.
"Director Rupert Goold has begun his reign at the Almeida with characteristic bravura: a provocative, royally entertaining new play which imagines what might happen when Prince Charles finds himself on the throne following the death of our dear Queen. Playwright Mike Bartlett has found a grand style to match his subject: King Charles III is written in blank verse and iambic pentameter and stuffed with echoes from and allusions to Shakespeare's histories and tragedies that similarly explore kingship, power and conscience... A crowning achievement for all concerned." The Mail on Sunday
"Mike Bartlett's script is a winning blend of Royal soap opera, speculative history and serious debate. Its language skilfully mixes blank verse, pantomime couplets, colloquialisms and gloriously overwrought metaphors... Tim Piggot Smith is magnificent as the titular monarch, whether agonizing over his duty, displaying genuine affection for his sons (the excellent Oliver Chris and Richard Goulding), confronting the ghost of Princess Diana, or going rapidly off the royal rocker. Rupert Goold directs an accomplished cast with sensitivity and restraint." The Express on Sunday
"Whether you care about the monarchy or consider it a consecrated obstruction, I doubt you'll give a hoot about the outcome of this drama... Bartlett's nods to Shakespeare don't do his play any favours; nor does his bludgeoning use of iambic pentameter. Oliver Chris and Lydia Wilson make a sleekly vacuous Wills and Kate, but the ermine robes can't conceal the fact that this enterprise has fluff between its ears." The Sunday Times
Charles III in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 2 September 2014, opened on 11 September 2014 and closed on 31 January 2015.