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‘Future History’– King Charles III at The Opera House, Manchester

11 March 2016 | London Calling

Queen Elizabeth II is dead. As her son Charles prepares to take the throne, the country descends into chaos. Plagued by scandals and political turmoil, can he hold the country together long enough to reach his coronation?

This is the premise of Mike Bartlett’s ‘future history play’, which both examines the possible outcomes of the succession and asks, what is the place of the Royal family in today’s society?

Robert Powell carries much of the weight of the play as Charles, a man increasingly frustrated by the betrayals and politics that surround him and desperate to forge a new path for the monarchy that will bring him out from under his mother’s shadow. Powell is fantastic in the role, by turns serenely wise and blusteringly pitiful, and always gripping to watch.

All of the actors have clearly studied their real-life counterparts well, but give them new fictional depths for their scenes out of the public eye. Richard Glaves as Prince Harry is awkwardly sweet in his subplot with revolutionist arts student Jess (played by Lucy Phelps), and Jennifer Bryden gives the Duchess of Cambridge a hard, manipulative edge as she works to ensure a future for her family – at any cost.

The play is written in a deliberately Shakespearean style – characters speak in blank verse and lengthy monologues peppered with occasional modern colloquialisms. It’s a choice that works well, providing gravitas and timelessness to the plot and its dark twists and turns.

King Charles III is at the Opera House, Manchester until Saturday 12 March 2016. See more upcoming shows at the Opera House and Palace Theatre here.

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