"Shakespearean History of future king"
by Michael Gray for remotegoat on 24/01/19

Mike Bartlett’s five-act history play, first seen at the Almeida in 2014, takes a look at the future of monarchy through Shakespearean eyes.
Alternative history now, what with Meghan, and Brexit, and the Prince of Wales’ hints about his reign.
But it remains a tour-de-force of blank verse, clashes and feuds both political and personal. Ruth Sullivan’s assured staging at the Tower is simple and fluent – a dais, a versatile table, translucent walls hung with monarchs of old, briefly replaced by anarchist masks after the interval.
We begin with funeral songs – the Boiler House Singers – as the Royal Family gathers to mourn the passing of our present queen. We’re soon into the politics, though, with the new king questioning legislation on press freedom. The title role is strongly played by Martin South: with just a hint of the vocal mannerisms, he eschews caricature for a thoughtful portrait of a frustrated man - “At last!”, he cries at the top of his first soliloquy. Joanna Nevin gives us a not very likable, cold Camilla.
Many more excellent performances on the nation’s stage, notably Ben Grafton as a dissolute Harry, with Sal Fulcher as his radical girlfriend. Jess Hammett is the fire-brand [socialist] PM – an impressive study in political integrity, neatly contrasted with Robert Orchard’s smug, “weasel-mouthed” Tory. The ensemble is effectively used – the press pack, the divided House, the noisy night-club – with members stepping out for cameos as various lackeys, minions and under-butlers.
The many Shakespearean resonances are skilfully done – the ghost’s prophecy, a fine feminist soliloquy from Helen McGill [Kate to Daniel Draper’s William], a news-vendor as a brief chorus, an officer reporting from the front line [or the front lawn], shades of Lady Macbeth and Lear in the closing pages, and finally Richard II’s reluctance to relinquish the hollow crown.

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