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TV Review: King Charles III, BBC Two

Published date: 12 May 2017 |
Published by: Jamie Bowman 
Read more articles by Jamie Bowman  Email reporter


 

THE timing of this controversial drama couldn’t have been better.

With the Duke of Edinburgh announcing his retirement and Prince Harry bravely speaking about his problems with depression, a programme that raised questions about the future direction of the monarchy in this post-Brexit age felt like a very timely reminder that the UK always seems a hair’s breadth away from panic in the streets of London.

Adapted faithfully from playwright Mike Bartlett’s award-winning play, King Charles III speculates on what will happen when the Queen dies and the Prince of Wales ascends the throne after decades waiting in the wings.

The late Tim Pigott-Smith takes on the role of Charles and it is as fine a memorial to this brilliant actor as you could hope for as he portrays the new King as a man out of time, desperate for a role but utterly incapable of moving with the times following his mother’s long reign.

It’s a story worthy of Shakespeare and Bartlett’s ability to write blank verse in the style of the bard gives the whole thing a nobly tragic atmosphere that sometimes borders on the surreal when the ghost of Princess Diana appears wafting through the corridors of Buckingham Palace.

In an echo of Lear, the King’s children plot behind his back with nice guy William (Oliver Chris) led further down the road to abdication by a scheming Lady Macbeth-esque Kate (Charlotte Riley) who is determined to be more than just a mother and obedient wife.

Of course the idea that the King could spark a constitutional crisis by refusing to sign a bill which would lead to the dissolving of parliament followed by tanks outside the palace and a full blown civil war is pretty far fetched.

But so was Brexit, Trump and Corbyn and as we stand on the brink of a hugely divisive General Election who knows what’s on the cards for this this sceptred isle?

King Charles III offered a few clues in a sparkling and unusual 90 minutes of drama. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

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