Review by Judith Robinson
Perhaps it is time that Prince Charles gets his shot at becoming king. And he almost gets his chance in Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III. But David Shurmann’s pompous and pedantic, mock Shakespearian speeches, in the Mirvish/Theatre 180 production in Toronto, are enough to drive the commoners to riot. Schurmann’s Charles makes the monarchy seem moldy and moth-eaten, and ripe for overthrowing.
Although many of the lines are funny and witty, most of Bartlett’s characters seem one dimensional. Even with the breadth of experience and fine acting ability of the twelve actors in the cast, it’s hard to bring something out of a script that isn’t there.
Photo courtesy of Cylla von Tiedemann l-r Galligan; Schumann & Powell in CHARLES III
Charles’ side-kick, Camilla, played by Rosemary Dunsmore, is reminiscent of Hyacinth in the British comedy “Keeping up Appearances”. She darts about in a grandmotherly dress, making coo coo noises at her powerful lover, and acts as if by rubbing her genie, some magic will emerge. Although Dunsmore does a great job of illustrating the script’s cues, surely there’s more to Camilla’s character than has been written in the text.
Patrick Galligan puts in a dynamic performance as Mark Stevens, leader of the Conservative opposition. It’s clear Stevens is caught in a tug of war between the monarch and his backers, but without a broadening of the context it’s hard for Galligan to deepen his portrayal. Like many other characters in this drama, he simply wasn’t given enough lines.
Shannon Taylor brings a pragmatic approach to her role as Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. Her picture perfect appearance and calm demeanor, masks her treasonous scheme to have her husband, William, crowned king to displace, Charles. She gave one of the most complex performances in the production.
What this play may lack in characterization, it more than makes up for in plot. There are so many story lines—protruding out in different directions—parliamentary intrigue, treasonous schemes, blackmail, sordid love affairs. Unfortunately, most of them occur entirely off stage and are only alluded to.
The strength of the script is in its questions—its exposure of the phoniness of the monarchy and of the British Parliament. The best thing about this production is the hope portrayed in Prince Harry. Harry brings fresh life to the dying dynasty. Every time Wade Bogert-O’Brien carries his penetrating honesty onto the stage, in his worn out clothes and uncertain gait, everything brightens. He is the charisma and charm that awakens the sleeping royals (reminiscent of his mother, Princess Diana, who floats about as a ghost).
Harry’s girlfriend, commoner Jess Edwards, played by Jessica Greenberg, points out the flaws in the system and demands reform. Greenberg’s performance is lively, spirited and passionate. The play is worth seeing even for the chemistry between these two.
King Charles III is playing until March 4th at the CAA Theatre in Toronto. (old Panasonic)