The Queen - already the UK’s longest-serving Monarch - celebrates her 90th birthday on April 21.
But what of the future?
That’s the unthinkable premise for the double award-winning production of King Charles III, billed as a future history play, at Leicester’s Curve theatre.
This touring production, which stopped off in Nottingham last October, continues to confront audiences with the intertwined themes of power, politics and privileges as Prince Charles ascends the throne on the demise of Queen Elizabeth.
Mike Bartlett’s royal drama, full of Shakespearian resonances, proved a premiere sellout in London at the Almeida Theatre and later in the West End scooping the Critics’ Circle and Oliver awards for the best new play last year. That original London production saw Tim Piggott-Smith as the new King (a role in which he has been wooing New York audiences for the past few months) while back at home the regal role has been given new prominence by Robert Powell in a hectic UK tour.
After Leicester the production moves to Sheffield’s Lyceum, but while the venues change the play’s central core remains the same as the new King Charles III is confronted with an agonising dilemma when 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.
The new King’s refusal to sign this Act of Parliament leads into a head-on collision with the Republican-leaning Labour Prime Minister Mr Evans (Tim Treloar) who is determined it should become law.
Any support from the Conservative opposition, led by Mr Stevens (Giles Taylor), wavers, so battlelines are drawn between the Monarchy and Parliament, watched by the public at large.
Interspersed between the politicking are some royal insider gems bordering on the nearly real to the fantastical. They include a wayward Prince Harry (played in superb fashion by Richard Glaves) wanting to leave ‘The Family’ and finding out the real meaning of life and love from a kebab shop worker; the ghost of Princess Diana (Beatrice Walker) haunting King Charles, and Prince William (Ben Righton) showing wisdom above his age as he tries to mediate and get his father to abdicate to solve the stand-off with Parliament and bring an end to civil unrest around the country.
In the title role, all-rounder Robert Powell, equally at home on stage, the big screen or on TV, carried his regal role with a mesmerising and memorable performance that did justice to a play which he regards as a masterpiece and one that no actor would want to ignore.
The women “behind the throne” were also represented with a supportive Camilla (Penelope Beaumont); Prince William’s feisty wife, Kate (Jennifer Bryden) who seemed to have a new take on resolving the State crisis, and Jess (Lucy Phelps) as Prince Harry’s on-off “girlfriend” from the wrong side of town.
For further details of showtimes for this not-to-be missed production visit www.kingcharles3play.co.uk