A willful king . . . a prophetic ghost . . . family betrayals . . . revenge! It sounds like a play by Shakespeare, but it’s a drama about the future. Masterpiece presents an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway show King Charles III, starring the late Tim Pigott-Smith as Prince Charles after his accession to the throne, sometime in the years ahead.
King Charles III, a co-production with the BBC, will be available on DVD June 27. The program will also be available for digital download.
Pigott-Smith, who died unexpectedly on April 7, had appeared in several Masterpiece productions, including The Jewel in the Crown and Downton Abbey. “The Masterpiece family is heartbroken at the loss of Tim Pigott-Smith, a wonderful actor and a warm and charming man,” says Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. “We are going to miss him.”
King Charles III playwright Mike Bartlett remembers him as “one of the real greats, both as an actor and a man.”
Daringly scripted in blank verse by Bartlett and directed by Rupert Goold King Charles III focuses on the crisis-strewn transition of power after the eventual death of Queen Elizabeth II, currently the longest-serving monarch in British history. For his part, Charles is the longest heir-in-waiting ever, and Bartlett envisions the turmoil that rocks the monarchy when his turn finally comes.
Also starring are Oliver Chris as Charles’s heir, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Charlotte Riley as William’s bride, Kate; Richard Goulding as Charles’s younger son, Prince Harry; Tamara Lawrance as Harry’s love interest and self-proclaimed revolutionary, Jess Edwards; Margot Leicester as Charles’s doting wife, Camilla; and Adam James as the polished British prime minister, Tristan Evans.
The original London staging of King Charles III won Best New Play accolades from both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards. Moving across the Atlantic, it garnered five Tony nominations during its Broadway run. The New York Times hailed the production as “flat-out brilliant … dazzlingly presumptuous.” And in London, The New Statesman marveled at the playwright’s audacity: “If the Lord Chamberlain still policed the stage, Bartlett would be in the Tower.”
Shakespeare-lovers will detect echoes of Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, and Henry IV, among other of the Bard’s works. They will also revel in the rhythmic music of blank verse—unrhymed iambic pentameter—which captures the natural flow of the English language and which Elizabethan dramatists helped popularize, revived by Bartlett to startling effect.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” That piece of blank verse is from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, and it perfectly portrays the hero’s quandary in King Charles III.