As I sat riveted to the stage during Pioneer Theatre Company’s new production, King Charles III, I kept thinking of all the anglophiles I know here in Salt Lake who really MUST see this play. It’s like King Lear and MacBeth had a baby with the Sex Pistols and Downton Abbey.
The award-winning, future history, told in iambic pentameter, sets up a what-if game with Prince Charles—who is not so Bonnie at age 70 when he assumes the throne upon his mother, Queen Elizabeth’s, royal demise.
The play draws on our own popular and tabloid versions of Charles, played with great vigor and just enough boffin-headedness, by John Hutton, to create a King who has been champing at the bit to rule for his entire adult life only to face a crisis of leadership right out of the gate. Meanwhile, as we all know, he has sired two princes—one a cad (Harry), the other a pawn (William) of his social-climbing wife (Catherine) who maneuver to usurp the new King’s fragile hold on the Crown.
Also, yes, there is a ghost—a certain dead mother you might have heard off—stalking the late-night halls of Buckingham Palace.
Playwright Mike Barrett’s, comparisons to Shakespeare are obvious and gleefully executed. Charles is Lear, out maneuvered by younger more ambitious minds. Kate and William, are natch, Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth and poor Harry is like his young namesake, pulled along for the ride, by Falstaffs and kebab carts.
Grant Goodman as William and Samantha Eggers as Catherine, ably back Hutton’s glowering performance. They love Charles but have zero respect for him and young Harry, acted with wide-eyed naiveté by John Ford-Dunker is played for the sucker by his father’s love for him. Lest we forget there is a famous stepmother, Camilla, that Monique Fowler, portrays with shrill intensity, as she uses what little sway she has to keep the family from falling apart.
The whole thing is bloody interesting, at times humorous, and, in its greatest moments, stirring—as we watch a King, who given the crown at last, fights for its relevance in a future that has forgotten the meaning of the monarchy. Unlike moldy Shakespeare characters, these are people you know, or think you know. We, despite being American, grew up with Prince Charles, Lady Di and are all voyeurs to the sort of quaint tabloid obsessions for the monarchy our British cousins enjoy. The whole thing feels stirringly grand and, at the same time, like we are watching a family squabble around our own kitchen tables.
King Charles III runs through April 8. Don’t miss it. Tickets and more info here.