Charles III imag­ines a roy­ally haunted fu­ture THEATRE

Straight choices

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -


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.


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.


COAT CHECK When we re­viewed Align En­ter­tain­ment’s rol­lick­ing ren­di­tion of Joseph

andthea­maz­ing Tech­ni­col­or­dream­coat

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