King Charles III: A Future History Play by Mike Bartlett
The monarchy and the royal family is such a fascinating lot, perhaps because their lives and secrets are often shrouded in mystery. Studio 180’s production of King Charles III, currently playing at the newly rebranded CAA Theatre, imagines a world where Queen Elizabeth is dead and Prince Charles finally takes the throne. Obviously the story is fictionalized but draws from some real-life details of the monarchs.
I found Mike Bartlett’s script rather dull and the style of writing odd. One moment the characters were talking naturalistically and the next we were watching Shakespeare. There were other nods to Shakespearean drama with a few awkward appearances of the ghost of Princess Diana fluttering in from the sides of the stage. I didn’t understand why Bartlett wrote a modern play in old-fashioned verse. It did not aid in the storytelling and in fact, it was distracting and made the characters play unnaturally.
The cast was filled with accomplished performers but David Schurmann felt miscast as King Charles III. He didn’t sound like the current prince and didn’t seem to capture his essence at all. He came across as a rather cranky and whiny old man. Real life Charles displays more poise and decorum. Rosemary Dunsmore does some very nice, believable work as Camilla. Wade Bogert-O’Brien was very appealing as Prince Harry and perfectly captures the bad-boy naughtiness of the youngest prince. Jeff Meadows as William and Shannon Taylor as Catherine also resonate truthfully in the roles.
One of my main problems with the casting is that Schurmann is significantly older (or at least played much older) than the current prince, but Bogert-O’Brien, Meadows and Taylor all look the age of the current Harry, Will and Kate. It was rather hard to suspend disbelief and buy into some imagined future because of this.
I am not one to complain about a sparse set as I have seen many used to great effect. John Thompson’s threadbare stage is too bare to suggest nobility. Even if the table and chairs used had been more ornate, it would have been a vast improvement to the very plain looking plastic chairs and table that were used. Denyse Karn went all out with the costumes for the coronation scene—they were properly grand. However, the characters pretty much stayed in the same costumes throughout the rest of the play. Hard to believe a fashionista like Kate would only have one black dress.
King Charles III has had popular runs in London and Broadway, but for me, it all felt a bit lackluster and monotonous.