King Charles III (play)

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King Charles III
King Charles III poster.jpg
Artwork for the original London and Broadway productions.
Written by Mike Bartlett
Date premiered 10 April 2014 (2014-04-10)
Place premiered Almeida Theatre, London
Genre Drama
Future history
Setting London, United Kingdom in the future

King Charles III is a 2014 play in blank verse by Mike Bartlett. It premiered at the Almeida Theatre, London, in April 2014 and centres on the accession and reign of King Charles III of the United Kingdom, the possible regnal name of the real Charles, Prince of Wales, and limiting the freedom of the press after the News International phone hacking scandal.

Production history[edit]

Its premiere production was at the Almeida Theatre from 10 April to 31 May 2014, with previews from 3 April, directed by Rupert Goold.[1] Charles was played by Tim Pigott-Smith,[2] whilst the cast also includes Margot Leicester as Camilla,[3] Oliver Chris as Prince William, Lydia Wilson as Catherine, Richard Goulding as Prince Harry,[4] Adam James as prime minister and Nicholas Rowe as leader of the opposition.[5] A typical performance ran for two hours and 45 minutes, including one interval.[1]

The production transferred to the West End's Wyndham's Theatre in September 2014 for an initial three-month run,[6] later announcing an extension to the end of January 2015.[7] When Pigott-Smith sustained a broken collar bone, he was replaced for five weeks by Miles Richardson.[8]

Following its West End run, the play began a UK tour at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre with Robert Powell in the role of Charles in September 2015, ending with a month run by the Sydney Theatre Company (at the Roslyn Packer Theatre) making its Australian premiere in March 2016.[9]

The play transferred to Broadway for a limited engagement with the original London cast, running at the Music Box Theatre from 1 November 2015 until 31 January 2016, following previews from 10 October 2015.[10][11]

A newly mounted production of the play directed by David Muse with Robert Joy as King Charles began 7 February 2017 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C.[12]


Role Almeida Theatre West End Broadway UK Tour Sydney
Charles Tim Pigott-Smith Robert Powell
William Oliver Chris Ben Righton
Harry Richard Goulding Richard Glaves
Kate Lydia Wilson Jennifer Bryden
Camilla Margot Leicester Penelope Beaumont Carolyn Pickles
Jess Edwards Tafline Steen Lucy Phelps
James Reiss Nick Sampson Miles Richardson Dominic Jephcott
Prime Minister Tristram Evans Adam James Tim Treloar
Mark Stevens, Leader of the Opposition Nicholas Rowe Anthony Calf Giles Taylor
Sarah / Ghost / TV Producer Katie Brayben Sally Scott Beatrice Walker
Coottsey / Speaker of the House of Commons / Sir Michael Tom Robertson Paul Westwood
Spencer / Nick / Sir Gordon Nyasha Hatendi Parth Thakerar Geoffrey Lumb
Protesters / Attendants / Understudies Edward Elgood, Joe Eyre,

Elinor Lawless, Peter Collis,

Emily Swain

Lucas Hall,

Rachel Spencer Hewitt, Peter Bradbury,

Gordana Rashovich, Harry Smith

Emily Swain,

Emily-Celine Thompson,

Ryan Whittle,

Karl Wilson

Plot summary[edit]

Charles and his family gather following the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Charles, as the new king, then holds his first weekly audience with the Prime Minister. They discuss a new bill for statutory regulation of the press, which has passed the House of Commons and the House of Lords and awaits only Charles' royal assent to become law. Charles is concerned that the law restricts freedom of the press too much, and would allow governments to censor the news and prevent legitimate uncovering of abuse of power by the government. He asks the PM for alterations to the bill, but the PM refuses. The two men spar, as the Leader of the Opposition arrives for a weekly meeting with Charles, an innovation the new king has introduced. The Leader of the Opposition expresses his own doubts on the bill, but he sees little alternative but for Charles to sign.

In parallel, Prince Harry has begun a relationship with Jess Edwards, a republican. Both Charles and Prince William have seen the ghost of Princess Diana, promising each man that he will become "the greatest king of all". The next day, Charles' butler hand-delivers the bill to 10 Downing Street, with 'Assent Reserved' written in place of Charles' signature. The PM holds a crisis meeting with the Leader of the Opposition and then goes alone to try to convince Charles to sign, but Charles continues to refuse. The PM then threatens to pass a new law bypassing the royal assent and then pass the press law, but Charles then dissolves Parliament before the PM can bring either of these plans into effect.

Protests begin across the country and especially in London. Charles increases the army guard at Buckingham Palace, offers his protection to Jess (whom the media have made the centre of a sex scandal), and agrees to Harry's wish to become a commoner. The Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William's wife Kate) proposes a solution: William will serve as a mediator between Parliament and his father. William announces this plan at a press conference without his father's knowledge and consent. Seeing this as a betrayal, Charles reacts angrily. Ultimately, Charles is forced to abdicate in favour of William, who plans to sign the press bill and restore the status quo between king and Parliament. The play concludes with Harry's rejection of Jess, and William and Kate's coronation as king and queen.

Critical reception[edit]

The London and Broadway productions have both received positive reviews.[13][14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Almeida and West End production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2014 Critic's Circle Theatre Awards Best New Play Won
2015 Laurence Olivier Awards Best New Play Won
Best Director Rupert Goold Nominated
Best Actor Tim Pigott-Smith Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Richard Goulding Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Lydia Wilson Nominated
Best Lighting Design Jon Clark Nominated
South Bank Sky Arts Awards Best Theatre Production Won

Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Drama Desk Award[15] Outstanding Play Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Play Tim Pigott-Smith Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Play Rupert Goold Nominated
Tony Awards[16] Best Play Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play Tim Pigott-Smith Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play Richard Goulding Nominated
Best Costume Design of a Play Tom Scutt Nominated
Best Direction of a Play Rupert Goold Nominated


On 12 July 2015 at 10pm, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a recording of the play with the original London cast.[17] This was repeated on 6 November 2016 at 9pm.

In March 2016, it was announced that the play will be adapted into a 90-minute TV film adaptation for BBC Two and Masterpiece on PBS. It will be adapted by Bartlett, directed by Goold and produced by Drama Republic.[18] Tim Pigott-Smith and Oliver Chris were set to reprise their roles of Charles and William respectively for the small screen.


  1. ^ a b "King Charles III". Almeida Theatre. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Curtis, Nick (2014-04-03). "What would happen if Prince Charles was made king?". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  3. ^ Sarah Hemming, "King Charles III, Almeida Theatre, London", Financial Times (London), April 11, 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014
  4. ^ Billington, Michael (2014-04-11). "King Charles III – a flawed premise but royally entertaining". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  5. ^ Charles Spencer, "King Charles III, review: 'spectacular, gripping and wickedly entertaining'", Telegraph (London), 11 April 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014
  6. ^ Mitford, Oliver (2014-05-28). "King Charles III to transfer to Wyndham's Theatre in the Autumn". Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  7. ^ "King Charles III extends to January 2015". Whats On Stage. 18 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Tim Pigott-Smith bows out of London play due to injury". Express Newspapers. 19 October 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Kenny, Fred. "King Charles III UK Tour, Broadway & Sydney | News | Almeida | About Us". Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  10. ^ "Olivier Award-Winning Prince Charles Satire King Charles III to Reign on Broadway". Playbill. 13 April 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Staff. "The Verdict: Read Reviews for Olivier Award Winning 'King Charles III' on Broadway" Playbill, 1 November 2015
  12. ^ Page-Kirby, Kristen (2 February 2017). "'King Charles III' at Shakespeare Theatre Company puts Charles in charge". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  13. ^ "King Charles III, Wyndham's Theatre, review: 'attendance is compulsory'". London: The Daily Telegraph. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  14. ^ "King Charles III review – provocative drama tells a 'future history'". New York: The Guardian. 2 November 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  15. ^ Viagas, Robert. "'She Loves Me' Leads Drama Desk Nominations" Playbill, 28 April 2016
  16. ^ "See Full List of 2016 Tony Award Nominations" Playbill, May 3, 2016
  17. ^ "King Charles III, Drama on 3 - BBC Radio 3". BBC. Retrieved 2016-04-08. 
  18. ^ "King Charles III on BBC Two | News | Almeida | About Us". Retrieved 2016-04-08. 

External links[edit]