Arts Club Theatre Company
King Charles III by Mike Bartlett

Dates and Venue
October 19 – November 19, 2017 Tue–Thu at 7:30pm, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, Wed at 1:30pm, and Sat & Sun at 2pm | Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage

Director Kevin Bennett Set Design Kevin McAllister Costume Design Christopher David Gauthier Lighting Design Darren Boquist Sound Design Ben Elliott Dialect Coach Alison Matthews Stage Manager Rick Rinder

Reviewer John Jane

King Charles III is Mike Bartlett’s hypothetical drama that speculates on what might happen when eventually Elizabeth dies and Charles ascends to the throne. The show opens even before the play actually begins with the entire company dressed in appropriately dutiful black at Elizabeth’s funeral. Personally, I found it uncanny, even in a fictional account, to be looking at a coffin suspended by cables with Elizabeth’s body presumptively inside.

With its Machiavellian plotlines and the dialogue delivered in iambic pentameter (Shakespeare speak) King Charles III could believably be part of a Shakespeare festival. Bartlett’s premise of an immediate constitutional crisis was perhaps inspired by history. Charles I, whose quarrel with Parliament over his royal prerogative also precipitated a crisis.

Bartlett’s play is, of course, set in London sometime in the not too distant future. It supposes that Prince Philip has already passed and Prince Harry is still single. Theresa May’s Conservative government has long gone with the Labour Party in power headed by a Prime Minister Evans (Simon Webb) who curiously bears a passing resemblance to Jeremy Corbin (current Leader of the Opposition).

While there are no ‘evil villains’ in Bartlett’s theoretical scenario, some members of the present royal household come in for some rather duplicitous treatment. Harry (Charlie Gallant) is portrayed as an immature, raffish flake, while his older brother William (Oliver Rice) is a reluctant colluder. On the other hand, Gwynyth Walsh gives her character personality that the real Camilla likely doesn’t possess. However, it’s Katherine Gauthier as the politically ambitious Duchess of Cambridge (Kate) who threatens to steal the show. A powerful presence in this play, there is a deliberate coincidence to Lady Macbeth in her attempt at implicit regicide.

Male cast members are ‘uniformly’ outstanding (okay, a bad pun). Ted Cole wisely doesn’t impersonate Charles, but gives an understated performance of a conscientious monarch. One had to enjoy David Bloom’s whimsical reading of fictitious private secretary, James Reiss, who delivers the play’s smartest humour.

Arts Club’s production values are again capital ‘Q’ for quality. In particular, Christopher David Gauthier clothing, from the officer’s ‘blues’ to Ms. Gauthier’s stylish day wear, isn’t far short of spectacular. Kevin McAllister’s set is functionally simple save for a gate dominating centre stage, an imposing giant royal orb and a union jack floor pattern. The shift between Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Buckingham Palace relies on Darren Boquist’s slick lighting.

What King Charles III gives up in character development, it at least partly makes up for as an intriguing hypothesis. It may suffer slightly from taking itself too earnestly. With so much potential ammunition, a little more irony wouldn’t have been amiss.

© 2017 John Jane