Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Royalty Runs Amok in Satire from Britain

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Royalty Runs Amok in Satire from Britain

Article excerpt

Who won the Revolutionary War anyway?

In a single year, Broadway has had two plays whose visual centerpiece is the reverently presented coronation of a member of the British royal family.

In March, there was Peter Morgan's "The Audience," a puff piece about Queen Elizabeth II. And Sunday saw the opening of Mike Bartlett's "King Charles III," at the Music Box Theatre.

To be fair, Bartlett's play, directed with a sure hand by Rupert Goold, is substantial and quite clever: a what-if look at the ascension to the throne of Prince Charles (an excellent Tim Pigott- Smith) after a lifetime of waiting. A limited man determined to make his mark, he succeeds only in creating havoc.

Much of the dialogue is in blank verse. It's not great poetry, but it's wittily effective in linking the play to Shakespeare's great history dramas.

There are soliloquies, visits in the night by the ghost of Princess Diana and amusing iambic speeches, as when the king's profligate younger son, Prince Harry (Richard Goulding), having fallen in love with a commoner, declares:

"I do not want her noble princess made.

Instead, descend myself into the mass. Cast off the princely burden of my birth, and for my life be Harry, man and friend,

with job, and house, and car and maybe wife."

Trouble arises for Charles soon after he succeeds his deceased mother Elizabeth, when he declares his opposition to a Parliamentary bill that would restrict press freedom.

Although the monarch has no veto power, he or she traditionally signs every new law. Charles refuses to put his name down unless the bill is revised, fervently arguing that press independence is sacred in Britain.

When the House of Commons refuses, Charles dismisses Parliament and calls for new elections, leading to widespread protests and the threat of civil war. (Holed up in Buckingham Palace, the new king asks if the palace guards, noted for appearing in tourist photos, carry weapons that actually fire bullets.) The satire eventually morphs into a rather serious look at the royals, as an institution and a family. …

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