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Saturday 12 May 2018

Brighton Fringe 2018 Review: King Charles III @ Brighton Little Theatre

King Charles III is a future history - our present monarch has been laid to rest, and Charles, after waiting patiently for the crown, finally succeeds. So begins Gary Cook of his visit to witness King Charles III, at Brighton Little Theatre.
Pic by Miles Davis

As Charles awaits his coronation, however, a weight of responsibility is added to his expectations as political lobbyists of both stripes, his wayward son Harry causing constitutional conundrums and a familial plot to skip a generation all add to his sense of duty. 

The piece is every bit as tangled a web - and ultimately as heartbreaking - as any Shakespearian history play - Mike Bartlett has written the piece in a tremendously effective Shakespearean form, including spotlit monologue asides to the audience, which prove tremendously effective. 

As the piece gets to the heart of the humanity beneath the public face of the Windsor family, it is hard not to draw parallels between Charles as a baffled Lear, and especially Harry as his namesake Hal, as he grows into convention, leaving behind his dissolute friends and "commoner" girlfriend. 


Bill Griffiths does an excellent job here playing James Reiss, constantly trying to check-and-balance the family through the minefield of Royal protocol, personal desires and "how things should be done". 

A remarkable performance from John Tolputt as Charles perfectly encapsulates the brittle and cussed figure quite unsure what to do with the power he has waited so long to wield.

Paul Morley and Charly Sommers are fabulous (and eerily look like) William and Kate, while Mandy-Jane Jackson and Frank Leon make a charming and believable "odd couple" in Harry and Jess.

A special mention must go to Patti Griffiths for the incredible wigs, and also to the props and costume departments - amazing detail and pitch-perfect, from Primark to Ermine.

Some great movement and choreographed sections were used to great effect, especially in the seamless prop, furniture and scene changes, all taking place on a simple but effective set.

In this time of great political uncertainty and the very real prospect of QE2 shuffling off her mortal crown in the near future, the prospect of succession and chaos to follow in this clever play really does touch a nerve.

The ending of the play, with a steely performance from Morley and Sommers (plus the aforementioned Prince Hal-like turnabout from Harry Windsor) has a great emotional heft, and praise must go to director Claire Lewis who has gathered this talented cast together to conjure up a full coronation in the confines of Brighton Little Theatre.

In summary, a fantastic and timely play, produced and directed to the very highest standard with a talented and committed group of actors. It's above-norm work for the Brighton Fringe - if there are any left, grab a ticket and go and see it!

King Charles III, at Brighton Little Theatre, runs until Saturday 12th May 2018. For more info CLICK HERE.

by: Gary Cook




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Photo credit: Sante D'Orazio

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