Imagining the events after the death of the Queen and the ascendancy of the Prince of Wales, together with lengthy lectures on the constitution, is – to use some classic civil service phrasing – a ‘courageous’ move.
King Charles III imagines a brewing conflict between crown and parliament, with political intriguing playing out around the emotional epiphanies of the royal family: people we think know, but we don’t.
As Charles, Robert Powell is certainly impressive. His voice and mannerisms gently hint towards the heir to the throne’s well known tics, but this is no caricature. He pulses with emotion, creating a real man from the sometimes difficult and expositional dialogue.
Jennifer Bryden and Ben Righton are similarly convincing as Kate and William, keeping on the believable side of mimicry.
As Harry, Richard Glaves provides most of the comic light to the piece, paired with Lucy Phelps as Jess, his unlikely lover.
The problem is, that despite the brilliant jewels on stage this piece resembles the hollow crown that dominates the final scene. It looks and sounds impressive, but the plotting is unconvincing: not wild enough to be satire, not realistic enough to be cautionary tale.
The use of Shakespearean metre is an interesting conceit, but it slips too often into archaic language that then jars uncomfortably with the modern parlance that is occasionally thrown in. It’s the only time the phrases “ambulous night” and “Tesco microwave meal for one” are likely to exist in the same universe; that the first is put in William’s mouth and the second Charles’ is even more disconcerting.
This production is a glamorous trinket, but a trinket nonetheless – and when the play’s message is that symbols really should matter, that’s a problem.