A candlelit vigil sets the scene for the opening of King Charles III at Birmingham Rep. Harry, William, Kate, Camilla and of course the future king, Charles line the stage singing a haunting hymn which from the outset sends a shiver down your spine. The Queen is dead – something which many royalists hope never to see – and highly topical this week as Elizabeth II becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
The thought-provoking play is set on the days leading up to the coronation of Prince Charles, following the death of the Queen. With big shoes to fill, Charles (Robert Powell) wishes to shake things up and leave his own mark on what could be a very short reign. As ruler, one of Charles’ first tasks is to ascend a bill enforcing greater restrictions on the nations press, however the future King doesn’t agree with the bill and demands for it to be amended, sparking a series of events which leads to the dissolution of parliament and potentially the end of the monarchy as we know it.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to see many fantastic productions in Birmingham, none of which have left me for days after thinking ‘What if?’ like King Charles III has. Although there is some humour the play isn’t Spitting Image – the characters have their own mannerisms and none of them attempt to mimic the fake accents that we think the royals have. As the story progresses you can actually see Powell age as the pressure mounts leading up to the final coronation. Kate (Jennifer Bryden) seems to be the iron will behind William (Ben Righton) – taking on a Lady Macbeth role, pulling the strings from behind. And of course there’s Harry (Richard Glaves) who falls in love with a common girl and just wants to be ‘normal’, have his own car, house and job.
There is an element of Shakespeare around the performance, not only with the language which seems to switch throughout, but it also draws upon both Hamlet and Macbeth, especially with an unknown ghost which patrols Buckingham Palace.
A provocative performance all around and one that I am telling everybody to see. King Charles III plays at Birmingham Rep until 19 September. For more information and to book tickets visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk