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King Charles III review at Richmond Theatre – ‘lacks edge’

Robert Powell, Ben Righton and Jennifer Bryden in King Charles III's UK tour. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith Robert Powell, Ben Righton and Jennifer Bryden in King Charles III's UK tour. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

Mike Bartlett’s clever, timely play imagines a time when, poised to succeed his mother as monarch, Prince Charles faces a do-or-die battle with his conscience over a government bill to curb press freedom.

As if that weren’t ambitious enough, Bartlett conflates a faux Shakesperean form, complete with blank verse, with contemporary speculation and intelligence. The playwright is clearly not averse to making changes according to breaking news.

Having wowed the West End last year, Rupert Goold’s stylish production is sure to prove popular on Broadway, where it opens next month. In the meantime, regional audiences get to see the second eleven in this workmanlike touring production, with Robert Powell as the man who would be king.

While you can appreciate why Powell chose to steer clear of a Charles impersonation, he cuts such a forlorn figure from the start that he has nowhere to go when things get really bad.

But there is still much to enjoy, not least Goold’s wonderfully fluent production and Jocelyn Pook’s original score, which perfectly reflects the gathering storm.

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The touring version lacks edge, but is worth seeing for Rupert Goold’s stylish production