by Mike Bartlett.
Almeida Theatre Almeida Street, Islington N1 1TA To 31 May 2014,
Mon-Sat 7.30pm (no performance 21 April Mat Sat & 30 Apr, 14, 21 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 3 May 2.30pm (+Touch Tour 12.45pm).
Captioned 1 May, 10 May 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7359 4404 (24 hours).
Review: Carole Woddis 11 April.
A big, triumphant event.
Mike Bartlett has written some good plays in his time. But few have bounded off the stage with quite such cheeky perfection as his latest, a `future history play’ speculating on life when our present Prince of Wales assumes the throne.
The brilliant stroke Bartlett falls upon is to write it in rhyming verse, in the style of a Shakespearean play featuring a cast list that includes Camilla, Kate, William and Harry, a PM and Opposition leader and various `commoners’. Diana gets a walk on part as a ghostly presence, telling Charles he will be the `greatest king of all’ and the same refrain comes to William having a restless, troubled night.
Harry, in an echo of the young prince Hal in the Henry IVs, becomes a roistering `bad boy’ tugging a little at the heart strings in his expression of the useless role he has been born into. Bard lovers will also find hints of Lear, as well as Edward VIII’s Abdication and Charles I’s run-in with Parliament.
Bartlett’s exploration may look like an irreverent satire but this is also a thoughtful, topical, state-of-the-nation look at the relevancy of our monarchy and its relationship to the constitution today. In a delicious turnabout, it is Charles who turns out to be the democrat, refusing to give a Royal Assent to the Bill on privacy and press freedom, deeming it wholly anti-democratic. There is much pleasure to be had, too, watching Charles playing PM and dissembling Opposition Leader off against each other.
As the new monarch, Tim Pigott-Smith produces a performance to treasure. The relish in his eyes, the twitch of the mouth, convey a man finally let off the leash, whose enthusiasm and sense of principle and duty so veer into over-assumption of power it proves his undoing. He dissolves Parliament and in turn is forced to abdicate. `Kate’ emerges as the power behind the throne.
A premise too far you might think but Rupert Goold’s production carries gravity – Jocelyn Pook’s music mixes Te Deums with a Michael Nymanish score – and radicalism in equal measure. A big, important triumphant event.
Sarah/Ghost/TV Producer: Katie Brayben.
William: Oliver Chris.
Harry: Richard Goulding.
Spencer/Nick/Sir Gordon: Nyasha Hatendi.
Mr Evans: Adam James.
Camilla: Margot Leicester.
Charles: Tim Pigott-Smith.
Couttsey/Clive/Sir Michael: Tom Robertson.
Mr Stevens: Nicholas Rowe.
James Reiss: Nick Sampson.
Jess: Tafline Steen.
Kate: Lydia Wilson.
Director: Rupert Goold.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound: Paul Arditti.
Composer: Jocelyn Pook.
Musical Director: Belinda Sykes.
Voice/Text coach: Alison Bomber.
Movement Director: Anna Morrissey.
Assistant director: Whitney Mosery.
Assistant designer: Cai Dyfan.
An Almeida Theatre, Headlong co-production Originally commissioned for Headlong, it opened at the Almeida theatre on 3 April 2014.