(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 9/12.)
If you’re not interested in the Royal Family, the way we are governed and the future of both the monarchy and the country – or for that matter, being royally entertained and stimulated for two and a half hours – then do feel free to ignore the West End transfer of the Almeida smash-hit King Charles III.
If, on the other hand, any of the above applies, then I’d suggest attendance is pretty much compulsory. This is quite the best thing that the playwright Mike Bartlett has done, and for that matter the pioneering director Rupert Goold. Cannily, they have noticed the obvious: that we can’t look ahead without confronting the difficult question of what will happen when the Queen dies. After such a long, venerated reign how could it possibly be business as usual?
Some of the plot’s twists and turns should be kept as under wraps as possible because they induce a state of sheer, thrillerish pleasure. But in essence, Bartlett creates a gripping drama from a hypothetical constitutional crisis. No sooner has “mum” died, than Tim Pigott-Smith’s Charles is confronted with an agonising dilemma: he’s asked to give his assent to a new law that so tightly safeguards privacy it seems to threaten press freedom and democracy itself. And yet is it not his regal function to uphold whatever parliament decides?