Whether you’ve waited a life time to get to the top or fought your way up there, being in power brings its own problems. In Mike Bartlett’s sparkling new “future history play” (a swift and well-deserved transfer of Rupert Goold’s sell-out production at the Almeida), the current Queen has just died and, after over 60 years waiting to take on the role to which he was born, the new King Charles finds himself facing a serious difference of opinion with the Labour PM (Adam James) even before he’s been crowned. Ironically – given the negative effect hacks have played both in his own private life and the death of his first wife Diana (who appears as a ghostly presence, wafting through the minds of both her husband and her sons) their high-level disagreement is over a bill restricting the freedom of the press.
There are some lovely performances in this clever, witty comedy, including Richard Goulding’s tousled red-haired Prince Harry, falling for an art student and discovering the joys of supermarket shopping, Lydia Wilson’s surprisingly forthright, focussed and, of course, slim-line Kate with a core of steel which ensures malleable hubby William (Oliver Chris) takes the appropriate course of action. And, at the centre, there’s Tim Pigott-Smith’s tormented Charles – trying to do what his conscience dictates and suffering because of it. Written in mock Shakespearean blank verse, and with frequent references to the Bard’s plays, this is an immensely enjoyable imagination of a monarch – and a constitution – in crisis.
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s award-winning, sung-through musical Evita also begins with a death – premature one this time – but then flashes back to chart the journey of the illegitimate Eva Duarte from her teenage years in the provinces, to popular Buenos Aires actress, to the wife of the president of Argentina. Rob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s fluent production turns up the volume, filling the vast barn of the Dominion theatre with lush orchestrations, too frequently at the expense of clarity, especially in the case of Marti Pellow’s narrator, Che. But Ben Forster is crystal clear as tango singer Magaldi and Matthew Cammelle brings a rich, serious tone to the role of Peron.
And Lloyd Webber’s music often soars as Madalena Alberto’s diminutive, forceful Eva rises powerfully to the challenge of portraying a controversial icon, and, in a quieter interlude, Sarah McNicholas (as Peron’s ousted mistress) delivers the poignant “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” with haunting purity in this welcome revival of a 1978 hit.
KING CHARLES III
Where: Wyndhams, Charing Cross Road WC2H 0DA
Tube: Leicester Square
When: Until 29th November
Cost: £17.50 – £57.50 + premium seats
Where: Dominion, Tottenham Court Road, W1T 7AQ
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
When: Until 1st November
Cost: £26.25 – £66.25 + Premium Seats
Image: Keith Pattison