Last night, I saw King Charles III at the festival Theatre. The context to the piece is the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and Charles becomes King. It was an interesting piece. The beginning of the piece set an ominous atmosphere of the funeral of Elizabeth – with the company in black, singing dark hymns. The acting, for me, was very mechanical. At the beginning it looked like they were going for a Brechtian approach, however throughout the play it wasn’t obvious they were doing that. The actors looked like they were reciting lines and the movements that went with it. It just didn’t flow. Coupled with some poor stage slaps and Harry’s ‘posh English’ accent which took an odd turn to South African occasionally. It really just didn’t gel with me.
The show itself was interesting. The play was Shakespearean in language – written in iambic pentameter – however it wasn’t consistent. It’s a good idea ,but it created an awkward middle-ground – with some characters shining through beautifully with that language, and others being restricted by that old-fashioned style, and not following to suit. It was also Shakespearean in other factors as well. There was a Macbeth twist to it, that I didn’t appreciate. With the ghost of Lady Di haunting the palace walls, telling William and Charles that they both shall be ‘the greatest King of all’, with Camilla and Kate, adopting Lady Macbeth-esque characters. Sound familiar? The show, to me, seemed like a mash up of Shakespeare’s greatest, (betrayal of son, by William; forbidden love – provided by Harry and art student Jess; Along with the Macbethian twist) which sounds like a great idea at the time – did not end well. The writing, proved true the stereotypes of the characters of the royal family : Charles – power hungry; William – Weak; Kate – controlling and power hungry herself; Camilla – bitch; and Harry – thick. I didn’t like this. I went in, hoping they would show something different, to everything else, and was disappointed. I did, although, enjoy the turn it took in the second act. It turning from the comedic play with a political undertone, to a political play with comedic undertones – which I personally favoured. With riots and violence across Britain, the politics shone through the comedy. It was a funny play, I’ll grant them that – And I did enjoy the surprisingly accurate and profound snippets of philosophy and well placed imagery scattered throughout the play – even if it did come from unexpected places.
A contemporary historical piece, is an interesting genre and impossible to get right. The finished product was a play, I felt couldn’t commit to any particular style, and created an awkward middle-ground tragicomedy that didn’t work either way. However did provide some interesting points to think about – about Britain and the role of our monarch, intertwined with politics – and got a few laughs out of me.