King Charles III drama team turns fo­cus on Brexit-era Bri­tish iden­tity

Writer con­tin­ues to court po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy Hit show about monar­chy sowed seeds of new play

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Han­nah El­lis-Petersen

A new work by Mike Bartlett, the writer be­hind hit play and BBC drama King Charles III, is to be staged as part of the new sea­son at the Almeida, ex­plor­ing ideas of Bri­tish iden­tity to­day against the back­drop of an English coun­try house.

With the play, Al­bion, Bartlett re­turns to the the­atre where the Olivier award­win­ning pro­duc­tion of King Charles III was first staged and will be directed by Almeida artis­tic di­rec­tor Ru­pert Goold.

Goold and Bartlett col­lab­o­rated on the stage and tele­vi­sion ver­sions of King Charles III, both of which were crit­i­cally ac­claimed. Goold said the seeds of Al­bion were sown when the pair were work­ing on the BBC adap­ta­tion last year, against the back­drop of the EU ref­er­en­dum and ques­tions about na­tional iden­tity it prompted.

“Mike is a self-con­sciously po­lit­i­cal play­wright a lot of the time and he felt that one of the great things about the­atre is that it can re­spond with­out any me­di­a­tion re­ally,” said Goold.

Goold said al­though he talked to Bartlett about writ­ing a new work for the Al­me­dia, he had al­most given up hope un­til the play landed in his in­box a cou­ple of months ago “with­out any warn­ing”.

“I can’t say much other than it’s about Eng­land now.” He added: “In the ru­ins of a gar­den in ru­ral Eng­land, in a house which was once home, one woman searches for seeds of hope.

“It’s about a fam­ily and it speaks to those clas­sic Amer­i­can or Rus­sian plays like Au­gust, Osage County or The Cherry Or­chard, about a fam­ily alone in a coun­try house that car­ries me­mories.”

The play shows Bartlett’s “spe­cial gift of writ­ing bril­liant parts for women” and Vic­to­ria Hamil­ton will play the lead role.

“Ini­tially it’s re­ally rich and comic and en­ter­tain­ing, a lit­tle bit like King Charles III, but it has real emo­tional bite, and he’s mar­ry­ing that into the amaz­ing for­mal abil­ity that he’s got,” said Goold.

Bartlett does not shy away from ad­dress­ing po­lit­i­cal is­sues – his last work, Wild, cen­tred on an Ed­ward Snow­den-like fig­ure and state sur­veil­lance. King Charles III, which was first staged at the Almeida in 2014, of­fered a dystopic vi­sion of what could hap­pen if Prince Charles took the throne. The BBC adap­ta­tion, which aired in May, was seen by some as con­tro­ver­sial for its sen­si­tive sub­ject mat­ter and an ap­pear­ance by the ghost of Princess Diana.

Bartlett’s other TV pro­jects in­clude BBC drama Doc­tor Fos­ter, of which he is writ­ing a sec­ond se­ries, and Trauma, a new se­ries for ITV about a griev­ing fa­ther.

Goold said Al­bion had par­tially been born out of a line in King Charles III when Charles, dis­solv­ing par­lia­ment, says: “I’ve planted an al­bion oak in Bri­tish soil.”

“Mike is in­ter­ested in th­ese ideas of na­tional iden­tity – the monar­chy, the land– that are po­ten­tially greater than ide­ol­ogy or party pol­i­tics, but he’s also not afraid to ques­tion those,” said Goold.

Also an­nounced as part of the Almeida’s new sea­son will be the world pre­miere of a work by Amer­i­can play­wright Anne Wash­burn, the Twi­light Zone, based on the 1960s tele­vi­sion se­ries, and a re­vival of Ten­nessee Wil­liams’ Sum­mer and Smoke.

Mike Bartlett came in for crit­i­cism when he of­fered a dystopian vi­sion of Prince Charles tak­ing the throne

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