King Charles III
Directed by Rupert Goold
King Charles III has the makings of true Shakespearean drama: pride, power, royalty, treachery, and betrayal. The only thing missing was murder. BBC Two’s daring move to commission a TV movie of Mike Bartlett’s fictitious play imaging the future reign of the Prince of Wales paid off, it produced a program that would have made the Bard proud.
King Charles III, written in Shakespearean verse, follows the current Prince of Wales ascension to the throne after his mother’s death. But the new King’s reign soon falls into turmoil when refuses to a parliamentary bill he dislikes, resulting in a constitutional crisis and civil unrest. Charles is given the full Shakespearean treatment, joining the long line of famous Shakespearean Kings. Although the story plays out like a medieval play, it remarks on the modern challenges of the Windsor family. The movie doesn’t pick a side on whether Britain should remain a monarchist nation or become a republic. It effortless shows both side of the argument, alluding that the monarch is what holds the nation together, but can also just as easily tear it apart. Bartlett’s story it the perfect narrative for our modern world, prompting the audience to really think about the role of Britain’s royal family.
The movie included a number of scandalous moments— William and Kate acting as a modern villainous Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth, Princess Diana appearing, in typical Shakespearean fashion, as a prophetic ghost, and Camilla slapping Wills— which, most certainly, made waves throughout Britain. But there is no denying, the BBC made a bold and powerful move by producing this production. They fully embraced the fictitious King’s sentiments that freedom of speech is a civil right, even if it does mean producing controversial content about the Royal family.
The production smartly brought back stage director Rupert Goold, known for masterfully adapting Shakespearean royalty to the screen with The Hollow Crown series. His direction brought the play a new life that can’t be actualized on stage. The regal sets and brooding to-camera soliloquies helps to bring to life the style of Shakespeare mixed with the bureaucracy of modern ruling.
The late Tim Pigott-Smith reprised the role of King Charles, following his acclaimed performance in the West End and New York, bringing the prideful yet weak King to life on screen. His performance, worthy of the title of best performance so far this year, was nuanced and quite, which created sympathy and compassion for the aged royal. Pigott-Smith absolutely led the cast with his outstanding performance, driving the narrative from start to finish. There were also standout performances from the Windsor brothers, Oliver Chris as William and Richard Goulding as Harry. Both actors completely captured the essence of each brother and their role in the family business.
King Charles III may have ruffled some feathers with its twilight-zone story, but the risk paid off as the movie was thought provoking, scandalous, and, quite frankly, bloody entertaining.