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« The elephant in the room | Main | Keeping Britain Tidy, part two »
Sunday
Jan112015

Theatre of the absurd?

Spoiler alert. If you're planning to see King Charles III in the West End any time soon, don't read on.

I saw it on Tuesday at Wyndham's Theatre and the second act in particular justified all the great reviews.

Briefly, the play imagines the period between the death of the Queen and the coronation of Charles.

At the interval I wasn't entirely sure whether it was a comedy, satire or drama. The opening scene felt like a medieval drama but the audience was soon laughing at the depiction of several well-known public figures.

The second act wasn't without humour but the genre was much clearer. This was drama bordering on tragedy, with nods to MacBeth and King Lear.

Read the reviews if you want to know the full plot. The brief version is this:

Charles becomes king and one of his first tasks is to sign his consent to legislation restricting press freedom following the hacking scandal.

He refuses and there follows a stand off between Parliament and the Crown that threatens the abolition of the monarchy.

To cut to the chase, Charles is forced to abdicate in favour of William.

Parliament has to prevail but Charles is portrayed as a stubborn (even heroic) man of principle.

For all the laughs, when the moment came for Charles to sign the abdication papers there was total silence.

Tim Pigott-Smith could have turned Charles into a bumbling caricature but he played him with great dignity.

The whole cast was strong and it's a difficult to pick out anyone but I will mention Lydia Wilson who played a scheming, highly intelligent yet very appealing Kate Middleton.

There were one or two jarring moments – the 'ghost' of Diana didn't really work, Harry was portrayed as a weak, adolescent buffoon, the Blair-like Labour PM was a more direct and honest figure than the two-faced Tory leader – but overall I'd give it four (out of five) stars.

I must also recommend Shakespeare In Love which I saw at the Noel Coward Theatre before Christmas.

Based on the film it was described to me in advance as a musical. Well, it's not.

Thankfully it's a play with music and if you loved the film (which I do) you'll enjoy this light-hearted and hugely entertaining production.

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