King Charles III at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford

Lucy Phelps and Richard Glaves in KCIII UK Tour (photo by Richard Hubert Smith)

Lucy Phelps and Richard Glaves in KCIII UK Tour (photo by Richard Hubert Smith) - Credit: Archant

As part of its national tour, Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III is playing at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this week and the first night was a sell out.

This interesting speculation of the future of the UK monarchy mixes Shakespearean verse with modern drama to great effect and a strong cast bring to life the Royal Family and ‘The Crown in Parliament’ with slight tongue-in-cheek humour, but also with affection. The story is thus told: the Queen has passed away and Robert Powell plays Prince Charles as he prepares to ascend to the throne as King Charles lll. Bringing this to our attention makes we, the audience, pause to consider just how long Charles has been waiting for this moment. What is it like to be waiting in the wings for so long, wondering when to fill those much loved shoes? And we are a country where many of us have lived under only one monarch and we know that our much loved Queen is a hard act to follow.

Powell plays a confident, accomplished Charles. In a very wordy first act (which he plays without pause or hiccup) he is at logger heads with the government over the passing of a bill. It is difficult to say much more without giving the plot away but believe me when I say that life is made surprisingly difficult for Charles, a good natured fellow who should cruise into the role of King without any problem - goodness knows, he’s had years to plan this one! But out of the woodwork come forces against him, and despite the support of the strong and loyal Camilla (played by Penelope Beaumont) he begins to doubt his own reasoning.

Robert Powell might not physically be twinned with HRH Charles, but Ben Righton, Richard Glaves and Jennifer Bryden playing respectively - William, Harry and Kate - bear incredible resemblance to their on stage personas. Bryden is fabulous as Kate, confident and assured and as real match for all the males in her political circle. Harry is slightly rougish and perhaps unkindly portrayed as not very bright, while Will is calm, cool and surprisingly reformist. The second act reveals more about these characters that we feel we know so well.

The production has exciting touches of uber-modern drama with masks, stamping feet, a fleeting ghost, Gregorian chants and the odd strobe effect, but it is essentially a very steady play with an intriguing theme. Directed by the Almeida Theatre’s artistic director Rupert Goold and Whitney Mosery, the production’s designer is Tom Scutt and the wonderful music is composed by Jocelyn Pook. From the enthusiastic reaction of the Guildford audience, King Charles lll has the pedigree to enjoy a cracking good nationwide tour - if it’s heading your way, book early.

King Charles III is at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford until Saturday November 14.

Box office 01483 440000 |