British playwright and screenwriter Mike Bartlett has assumed the role of The Bard to pen King Charles III, a “historical” play in blank verse and rhyming couplets, written in the Shakespearean style. It is a remarkable homage to the greatest English playwright, incorporating drifts into humor, bawdy puns, poignant human truths, and wry plot twists often associated with pure ambition. “King Charles III” is the present Prince Charles’ possible regnal name upon his ascension to the throne. The story that Raleigh, NC’s Burning Coal Theatre Company is telling — Thursday-Sunday, through Sunday, April 29th — revolves around the current House of Windsor and the goings on behind the gates of Buckingham Palace after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Upon the dimming of the lights, the Murphey School Auditorium stage is filled with a host of black-dressed mourners, bearing lighted candles and singing a requiem chorus. The mourners then disassemble into the principals, and the fight is on. Music for the show was composed by Jocelyn Pook, and directed for Burning Coal by Julie Hall Oliver.
The entire play is performed on a regal, double-risered platform, painted royal blue as if it were a rich and palatial carpet. Credit for this set goes to designer Elizabeth Newton.
Costumes by Bonnie Raddatz are as smart as the nobility wear, fitting as MPs should be; and Jess (Mya Ison), a street-wise girl with a past, is dressed in contemporary street-wise grunge. Lights by Christopher Popovich are subtle and timely.
Director Karen O’Brien has a large handful of cast to manage the flow of, and she does a wonderful job of it. She helps this noble family radiate the inborn and cultivated devotion to duty that we have come to expect watching from afar. The performances are fast paced, snug, and smug. The flow of time is hardly felt; there is the sense that everything is happening when it should.
Brooklyn, NY actor and director Randolph Curtis Rand is a superb actor who becomes Prince Charles (a.k.a. King Charles III), with sovereign dignity. He brings a sensitivity to the man, a humanity that we never see in the tabloids or the newsreels. In the crisis in which he becomes involved, Rand shows the heir’s backbone and honor.
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, who is married to Prince William (played by Lucius Robinson), is played by Chloe Oliver, who gives us a Lady Macbeth without the blood, an ambitious would-be Queen who drives her husband into a catastrophic encounter with his father. Oliver is sweet when necessary and hard as steel when she flexes her palace-intrigue muscles.
Mya Ison plays Jess, a commoner who attracts Prince Harry into her life. Ison plays the role spiritedly and with heart. She is charming; and her lively, foot-loose spunk contrasts beautifully with the solemnity that burdens the Royalty and the politicians.
Ben Apple brings out Ginger-haired Prince Harry’s energy and easygoingness with aplomb, but he also displays Harry’s awareness of duty to the crown.
Prime Minister Evans, the primary antagonist in this story, is taken on by Joey Infinito, who expresses a wide range of political ken, and the chops to express it like a real pol.
Although we refer only to a few of this great cast, all the performances are meritorious and make King Charles III a must-see show.
SECOND OPINION: April 13th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Andrea McKerlie Luke https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8927; April 11th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/arts/archives/2018/04/10/mike-bartlett-rewrites-future-history-in-richard-iii-at-burning-coal; and April 8th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article206900694.html.
Burning Coal Theatre Company presents KING CHARLES III at 2 p.m. April 15, 7:30 p.m. April 19-21, 2 p.m. April 22, 7:30 p.m. April 26-28, and 2 p.m. April 29 in Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St. Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $25 ($15 students, teachers, and active-duty military personnel and $20 seniors 65+), except “Pay-What-You-Can” Performance on Sunday, April 15th, $5 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 5 minutes before curtain), $15 Thursdays, and $15 per person for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: 919-834-4001 or http://www.etix.com/.
SHOW: http://burningcoal.org/king-charles-iii/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/2097837713785076/.
STUDY GUIDE: http://burningcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/charlesiiisgsm.pdf.
2017-18 SEASON: http://burningcoal.org/season/.
PRESENTER: http://www.burningcoal.org/, https://www.facebook.com/Burning.Coal.Theatre, and https://twitter.com/burningcoaltc.
NOTE 1:The 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15th, show is a “Pay-What-You-Can” Performance.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15th, performance.
NOTE 3: There will be talkbacks with the show’s cast and creative team, following every Thursday evening and Sunday matinee performance.
King Charles III (2014 West End and 2015 Broadway future history play): https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=5061 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/king-charles-iii-500333 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Charles_III_(play) (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://burningcoal.org/wp-content/uploads/charlesiiisgsm.pdf (Burning Coal Theatre Company).
Mike Bartlett (British playwright and screenwriter): http://theagency.co.uk/the-clients/mike-bartlett/ (The Agency bio), http://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/mike-bartlett-500334 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5411362/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Bartlett_(playwright) (Wikipedia).
Karen O’Brien (director): https://www.facebook.com/karen.obrien.7712 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.