Thursday, 18 May 2017

On "King Charles III" by Mike Bartlett (2015)


I first heard about King Charles III in 2014, like everybody else, when it was suddenly the hottest play in London, but I was familiar with Mike Bartlett's work a little earlier than that, though only the scripts for 13 and Earthquakes in London. He's a good playwright, part of why I was so chuffed he was one of the writers to contribute to Doctor Who Season 36 (Series 10. The one airing in 2017*). But I never got round to actually seeing this play, so it was with much delight that I heard a 90-minute version would be airing on BBC One. The passing of Tim Pigott-Smith not long before the broadcast cast a certain pall over it, but public calls for a posthumous BAFTA are already making waves. And rightly so; Pigott-Smith is remarkable here. No dead-ringer for Charles (not that that matters to my eyes, anyway), he makes up for it with a polished performance that gets the occasional tone of voice, the mannerisms, just right - and more importantly, given that this is of course a fictional Charles, a performance that sells exactly what Bartlett's script is doing.