24 September 2015

King Charles III at Richmond Theatre was sensational


I had heard good things about King Charles III in its previous incarnations so when it headed off on tour and passed through Richmond I thought that I would give it a go, despite not really knowing anything about it or being that interested in the monarchy.

I settled for the top level of the theatre, which is not always open so it was obviously expected to sell well, and I got Upper Circle Row A Seat 12 for a wallet-friendly £25. The view from there was a little vertiginous but otherwise fine.

It would be simple to say that King Charles III was a modern take on Shakespeare but that would be to mask its brilliance.

Being like Shakespeare is no mean achievement in itself but this was Shakespeare with the benefit of centuries more theatre to learn from. From the very opening, a haunting march composed by Jocelyn Pook for the funeral of QEII, the play reeked of professionalism and talent.

Having Robert Powell play King Charles III helped.

The story was complex and intriguing. A topical review of the legislation of newspapers led to a confrontation between crown and state with complications coming from, amongst other things, a hugely ambitious Princess of Cambridge, the ghost of another princess and Harry's latest girlfriend. It had all the political intrigue your would expect from a Shakespearean history and, like his, this one had dollops of truth and masses of embellishment.

The dialogue was mostly Shakespearean too, both in structure and vocabulary with some rhyming couplets thrown in for good measure. Some modern language broke the mood such as when Kate let slip the f-bomb. The two modes worked well together and the play managed to be both historical and modern.

There was more to the plot than in most Shakespearean histories and I was engrossed from start to finish.

Everything about the play was just right without being too smug about it. It was sensational.

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