Charles III imagines a royally haunted future THEATRE
KING CHARLES III
Written by Mike Bartlett. Directed by Kevin Bennett. An Arts Club Theatre Company production. At the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Wednesday, October 25. Continues to November 19
2“The queen is dead, long live
the king… That’s me.” These are fitting words for a prince turned king whose whole existence has been “a lingering for the throne”. In real life, the long-running macabre joke is that spite has been the sustaining factor in Queen Elizabeth II’S lengthy reign. That she’s punishing Prince Charles for bringing so much scandal to the royal family with his rocky marriage to Princess Diana, their various affairs and subsequent divorce in 1996, and her death a year later following a car chase by paparazzi.
In King Charles III, playwright Mike Bartlett imagines a not-too-distant future wherein Prince Charles (Ted Cole) finally has the crown within his grasp—only he isn’t quite sure what to do with it. When the new king receives a bill from the prime minister (Simon Webb) that will limit the freedom of the press, he refuses to sign it, eventually igniting total political upheaval. Kate (Katherine Gauthier) is thinly reimagined as a power-hungry seductress who wants the crown to pass to her husband, Prince William (Oliver Rice), while Prince Harry (Charlie Gallant) falls for Jess (Agnes Tong), a young art student who offers him hope of a “normal” life outside the palace.
Bartlett’s play is meant to evoke William Shakespeare, and it does so with some success, but the pacing of this production feels off, and it’s hard to know if that’s a problem with the writing or with Kevin Bennett’s direction. At times, King Charles III feels laboriously slow. Bartlett has some good lines and dialogue but not enough to sustain its three hours.
Of course, because it’s a Fakespearean Tragedy, there’s a ghost.
Ghost Diana (Lauren Bowler) appears separately to both Charles and William, and it’s frustrating to see her reduced even in death to the role of a loving prop validating men. Arguably, there’s a malicious edge to her validation, since she tells both of them that they are destined to be the “best king” and chaos ensues, but that’s not really how the scenes are staged. Her appearance feels exploitative, particularly since her death is invoked by the prime minister as a reason for Charles to sign the bill restricting press freedom.
The play is never quite as clever as it wants to be, despite there being some fascinating potential to explore in its themes: the culture of stoicism and its influence on toxic masculinity (Charles’s “softness” is repeatedly brought up, and his emotions are often coded as feminine or weak); censorship, press, and people as brands; power and corruption. Like its depiction of the man himself, this King Charles III is fine but flawed, never quite living up to its potential.
> ANDREA WARNER THE LONESOME WEST
By Martin Mcdonagh. Directed by Evan Frayne. A Cave Canem Productions production. At Pacific Theatre on Saturday, October 21. Continues until November 11
2“That’s the great thing about
being Catholic. You can shoot your dad in the head and it doesn’t even matter at all.” Coleman (Kenton Klassen) cheerfully shares this realization with his brother, Valene (John Voth), in Pacific Theatre’s The Lonesome West. He has, in fact, just shot their father, kicking off this muscular play thick with violence, fraternal animosity, and potato hooch.
The two brothers live in a village in Connemara, in the west of Ireland. They’re idle, unemployed, and spend their days drinking a lot, fighting with each other, and, to their endless dismay, not having sex.
Their father’s death upsets an unsteady détente in their tiny house. The frequent visits of the weepy, oft-fermented parish priest, Father Welsh (Sebastien Archibald), only increase the domestic tensions.
The play, by Irish/british bad boy Martin Mcdonagh, is tons of fun. The writing vibrates with lethal verve. It’s wordy and full of Irish slang, but the plot barrels along and expects the audience to just keep up.
There’s a lot of George F. Walker’s combative, working-class tales to the play, as well as a little of TV’S Father Ted. (Father Welsh memorably yells “Feck!”, covering one-third of Father Jack Hackett’s vocabulary.) McDonagh went on to write the film In Bruges, another very black comedy featuring a pair of surly Bickersons.
The cast rides this devil’s wheel very well. Klassen and Voth find the right kind of chemistry—sometimes chummy, sometimes vicious—and execute their frequent wrestling matches with a lot of skill. Kudos to fight choreographer Josh Reynolds for configuring their donnybrooks so they’re convincing from both angles of the theatre’s alley stage. Archibald brings a sardonic humour to what might have been a cliché of a role.
The text is challenging, and in the early minutes the cast struggled to find its rhythm. They were rescued by Paige Louter, who has a hilarious turn as a foul-mouthed local schoolgirl and purveyor of Irish moonshine. From the moment she steps on-stage, Louter inhabits the character effortlessly. She also had the best Connemara accent. In fairness, she studied theatre in Galway, so she has a leg up on the rest of the cast.
I was skeptical when I first saw Sandy Margaret’s set—a naturalistic rendering of an early-’90s tiny Irish house. The playing space at the Pacific Theatre is small to begin with, and the set seemed overly busy.
Instead, it worked very well, accommodating all the brawling and other physical business the play demands. I was reminded of watching a benchclearing brawl in Junior B hockey. My one small complaint was the lack of lamps. Every rural Irish house I’ve visited has been full of them.
Pacific Theatre often punches above its weight, and The Lonesome West is no exception. You wouldn’t expect patricide and Catholicism to be this much fun.
> DARREN BAREFOOT
COAT CHECK When we reviewed Align Entertainment’s rollicking rendition of Joseph