Fringe Box



Dragon Review: King Charles III – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 10 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 10 Nov, 2015

Robert Powell as King Charles III

By Ferenc Hepp

King Charles III? When was he on the throne? I thought I was good at history but I can’t remember him? No need to panic, you have not missed any of your history education, this show is about the potential consequences of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, becoming king after the Queen’s death.

As I expected even before the performance started, the play opens with the sombre moments of people grieving Queen Elizabeth II’s passing with dim lighting and characters wearing black to the sound of Agnus Dei.

Familiar characters are introduced in turn, as we meet Charles (Robert Powell), William (Ben Righton), Kate (Jennifer Bryden) and Harry (Richard Glaves) amongst others.

Every time we see each of them for the first time, there was a quiet laughter of recognition from the opening night’s audience, including myself, however, these are not meant to be impersonations, but more like representations of the Royal Family, with some familiar characteristics, but also newless familiar, traits.

Apparently, when this play is set, we will have a Geordie labour prime minister called Mr Evans (Tim Treloar), opposed by his Conservative counterpart, Mr Stevens (Giles Taylor).

That King Charles is going to rule rather differently to his mother, becomes clear when he invites the leader of the opposition to spend the same time with him as the PM.

All political and royal hell then breaks loose when Charles: refuses to sign a privacy
Bill that has been agreed by both political parties; Harry meets a ‘common girl’ (Jess) in a club and asks his father if he could break away from the family to live with his newly found love after spending time with her doing every day ordinary things which he has not been used to, “We went to Sainsbury’s!”; and the King interrupts House of Commons business in order to dissolve parliament.

Robert Powell gives a fantastic and powerful performance as Charles.

Things then get even worse for Charles as the public turn against him, rather compromising pictures of Harry’s girlfriend appear in the papers, and chaos (instead of the new king) reigns in the land with schools closed and the country on the verge of civil unrest.

However, Charles remains unrepentant and proclaims: “My greatest enemies stand not in the crowds out there,” and “I will be the greatest king of all!”

Can William save this situation and restore order with the help of Kate? Will Jess be accepted into the Family? How will Charles react to the idea suggested by members of his immediate family that he should abdicate?

The scene that reveals these decisions was my favourite in the whole show. You could hear a pin drop in the full auditorium as the situation gets resolved.

The set and backdrop remain the same throughout the play. It works very well and there are some very effective and mesmerising choral pieces used to link scenes.

The whole cast work very well together with some clever use of iambic pentameter, Robert Powell gives a fantastic and powerful performance as Charles. Richard Glaves as Harry took the longest to ‘get going’ and portraying the various characteristics of the Prince, but he certainly got there by Act 2.

We even see the ghost of Princess Diana appear at various times and those typical Diana eyes were rather haunting.

Star rating 4

King Charles III is playing at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this week until Saturday, with tickets available via or 01483 440000.

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