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The Almeida Theatre Production of "King Charles III", A Future History Play, at The Music Box
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The Almeida Theatre Production of "King Charles III", A Future History Play, at The Music Box

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The Almeida Theatre Production of
King Charles III
(King Charles III Website)
A Future History Play
Mike Bartlett
Directed by Rupert Goold

The Music Box
239 West 45th Street
A Shubert Organization Theatre

Tim Pigott-Smith
Anthony Calf, Oliver Chris, Richard Goulding
Nyasha Hatendi, Adam James, Margot Leicester
Miles Richardson, Tom Robertson, Sally Scott
Tafline Steen, Lydia Wilson

Scenic and Costume Design: Tom Scutt
Composer: Jocelyn Pook
Lighting Design: Jon Clark
Sound Design: Paul Arditti
Production Stage Manager: Barclay Stiff
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Advertising: SPOTCO
US Casting: Jim Carnahan Casting, CSA
Assoc. Producers: 1001 Nights, Kevin Emrick, Rupert Gavin
Press Representative: O&M Co.
Company Manager: Megan Curren
US General Management: Thompson Turner Productions

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 18, 2015 Matinee

Full disclosure, I am a lifelong fan of Britain’s royal family, its dramas and its regal events. Mike Bartlett’s “future history play”, King Charles III, depicting Charles, as finally about to be anointed King of England in a grand, globally-viewed coronation, is replete with conspiracies, revelations, gossip, flirtations, wit, and even a ghost of the most adored royal relative. The premise is that the Queen has just died, and the funeral ceremonies are now complete. A mesmerizing choir, holding bright candles, sets the opening scene. Mr. Bartlett’s dialogue is in a non-rhyming, rhythmic form of prose, spoken eloquently by the cast of this Almeida Theatre production. London’s Almeida Theatre, once a literary and scientific society, has as its Artistic Director Rupert Goold, who has directed this show. Everything about this show is entirely British in aura, the native accents with an upper crust flair, the Buckingham Palace interior by Tom Scutt, the woven Shakespearean evocations, and a couple of bejeweled capes and crowns.

There are representatives of the House of Commons, a prime minister, and a conservative leader, who’s exploiting the imminent King’s dilemmas for his own political purpose. And, as always, the royal family members go rogue. The two long acts of this gripping play proceed seamlessly, thanks to Jocelyn Pook’s spectacular, spiritual and electronic interludes. Tim Pigott-Smith, as an undaunted Charles, poignantly and pathetically tries to thwart Parliament by not signing a popular bill that would limit the press’ invasion of citizens’ privacy, including the privacy of Charles’ own, very publicly followed family. In the ensuing battle and self-righteous monologues, a svelte and spirited Kate (Lydia Wilson) and a determined and devious William (Oliver Chris) jockey for that elusive and dazzling set of crowns.

Of course there’s an explosive and conniving Camilla (Margot Leicester), protecting her future state status, and a rakish and raunchy Harry (Richard Goulding), who skirt-chases a commoner, Jess (Tafline Steen), a gal who likes to party. This duo is evocative of Romeo and Juliet, lovers from opposite clans, although not quite as tragic. As for the ghost, one can use one’s imagination. Sally Scott performs as a talkative TV producer. The prime minister, called Mr. Evans, is performed by Adam James, while his conservative nemesis, called Mr. Stevens, is performed by Anthony Calf. Nyasha Hatendi, Miles Richardson, Tom Robertson, and four ensemble actors, as protestors or attendants, fill out this expansive cast.

Jon Clark’s dim lighting design enhances Charles’ dark, dramatic solitude and the eerie intimation of the palace’s past inhabitants. Mr. Scutt has also designed costumes, in addition to the set, and, as this is a “future history” exposition, clothing is mostly contemporary, other than the blue-ribboned, gold-braided, military jackets for Charles and William. It should be noted that within Mr. Scutt’s palatial walls are embedded faces of the British crowds, the cheering public that keeps royalty in business. My only complaints lie in the sound design, with occasional, garbled dialogue lost rear stage, as well as in the Playbill notes, as each character could have been briefly described for educational purposes, on a separate page (as in the recent play, The Audience, a production devoted to Queen Elizabeth), especially in the case of government officials and royal visitors or staff. Rupert Goold has wisely directed to allow for extended silence, during periods of staged thought, a welcome device.

Kudos to all.

The Cast of "King Charles III"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Tim Piggott Smith in "King Charles III"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Oliver Chris and Lydia Wilson
in "King Charles III"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Tafline Steen and Richard Goulding
in "King Charles III"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at