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Review: King Charles III at Newcastle Theatre Royal

“I Never Thought I’d See The Day”
King Charles III
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 3rd October 2015.

It is unusual for a play not to be either fictional or about a past event. It seems rare for a play to be set in the future about people that we know about now.  When a play strays into predicting the future it enters a minefield: is it plausible that people will react in such a way? The success of King Charles III relies on the acceptance of its interpretation of its crystal ball.

It opens with 12 mourners holding a vigil as Queen Elizabeth II has died. They are singing a requiem which fills the auditorium and set the early tone. Very quickly afterwards the principle characters are introduced and the audience laughs as they recognise the personalities. William (Ben Righton) and Kate (Jennifer Bryden) are very statesmanlike and aware of how they appear. Harry (Richard Glaves) is the socialite who cannot get away from the family fast enough. Camilla (Penelope Beaumont) is starting to come out of the wings.

The central character is of course Charles, played by the fabulous Robert Powell, who has possibly over thought his role. He decides he will have weekly meetings not only with the Prime Minister (Tim Treloar) but also the leader of the opposition (Giles Taylor). Events come to a head when the new king refuses to sign a new piece of legislation. He feels he can exploit the concept that Britain is not run on a constitution but on tradition. Add into the mix that Harry falls in love with Jess (Lucy Phelps), a girl from Reading that he meets in a club.  

The script by Mike Bartlett has a feel of a really good modern day Shakespearian play. There is the love story between royalty and commoner; the angst building up between monarch and his parliament and a press secretary (Dominic Jephcott) who likes to stick his oar in. To cap it all there is even a ghost as Diana (Beatrice Walker) wonders though the set making remarks to Charles and William. The dialogue often has that poetic musicality of Shakespeare’s work and is not afraid to use Yoda-like sentence construction.

Jocelyn Pook has composed a score which sets the emotions well. Couple this with the careful direction under Rupert Goold and you have a production which draws the audience in.

The story is thought provoking. Beyond the “could they do it”, it also questions the role of the monarch in their handling of state affairs. The cut and thrust of fast moving political debate is set against potential constitutional upheaval.

King Charles III is an intelligent and sometimes amusing story that could predict the future better than Back To The Future did.  Robert Powell leads a strong cast in a show that is well worth seeing.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

King Charles III appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 28th September – Saturday 3rd October 2015.
Tickets from £14.50 (pay 50p less per ticket when you book online).
Tickets can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21, (calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge) or select your own seat and book online at

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