This past weekend, the wife and I opted for something different; we headed down to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to catch the Tony Award-nominated and Olivier Award-winning new play, King Charles III - a future history play centered around the ascendancy of Prince Charles.
Click play on the video below to listen to my review of this fabulous show and read CST's press release for more information.
Mike Bartlett’s West End and Broadway sensation - Winner of the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Play
King Charles III featuring Downton Abbey’s Robert Bathurst in the title role
Chicago—November 16, 2016—Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) presents the Chicago premiere of Mike Bartlett’s new West End and Broadway sensation King Charles III, directed by Gary Griffin as part of the Theater’s 30th Anniversary Season. Queen Elizabeth II is dead. Long live the King—that is King Charles III. With Camilla at his side—and William, Kate and Harry anxiously looking on—Charles tries to take his rightful place in a long line of British monarchs. Appearing in the title role is Robert Bathurst, best known by American audiences for playing Sir Anthony Strallan on the hit series Downton Abbey. Winner of London’s Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2015 and nominated for five Tony Awards in 2016, King Charles III is performed at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, now through January 15, 2017.
Called “the most insightful and engrossing new history play in decades” by The New York Times and “bracingly provocative and outrageously entertaining” by The Independent, Bartett’s compelling new comedy–drama blurs the line between truth and tragedy. In the aftermath of the death of England’s present-day monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles ascends to the throne. His first official act is to rubberstamp Parliament’s bill restricting freedom of the press, but Charles refuses in a provocative act of conscience. England is thrown into crisis, absurdly escalating with tanks guarding the palace gates. In the midst of plays for power, how will Charles rule over his once-united kingdom? Written in blank verse and sprinkled with rousing soliloquies and rhyming couplets, King Charles III invokes the heightened stakes of Shakespeare’s greatest works in an inventive present-day setting.
Stage and screen actor Robert Bathurst makes his Chicago Shakespeare debut in the title role as the beleaguered monarch- to-be. He is best known to US audiences as Sir Anthony Strallan on the hit PBS series Downton Abbey, in which he appeared regularly throughout the first and third seasons. Throughout his distinguished 30+ year career, he has performed extensively at the National Theatre, in the West End and on tour, as well as at the Lyric Hammersmith, London Playhouse and Bath Theatre Royal. Among his many popular television and film roles, Bathurst has had leading roles in My Dad's the Prime Minister, Coup!, The Stepfather, The Pillars of the Earth mini-series and the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. He stars in the cult classic series Cold Feet, which ran for five seasons 1997–2003—and reprises his role alongside the original cast in a sixth season this year.
Leading director of Broadway and Chicago stages Gary Griffin returns to Chicago Shakespeare where, as Associate Artistic Director, he stages his twenty-third production. The ten-time Joseph Jefferson Award winner’s CST directing credits feature a diverse body of work spanning musicals (Gypsy, Road Show, Follies); Shakespeare plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It); and classics (Private Lives, Amadeus). His landmark production of Pacific Overtures went on to the Donmar Warehouse in London, where it garnered the Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production and a nomination for Best Director. Griffin’s work has also been seen on Broadway in Honeymoon in Vegas, The Color Purple and The Apple Tree, as well as at Canada’s Stratford Festival and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Portraying members of the Royal Family, Jordan Dean and Amanda Drinkall make their Chicago Shakespeare debuts as Charles’s eldest son Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, both set on carrying forward tradition. Dean has been seen on Broadway in American Psycho, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Mamma Mia!, and in Lincoln Center Theater’s Cymbeline. Drinkall has appeared on Chicago stages at Steppenwolf Theatre, the Goodman Theatre and Victory Gardens. Alec Manley Wilson portrays a conflicted Prince Harry who must find his role in the new family dynamics; he has previously appeared at American Repertory Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club. Rae Gray—with credits at Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre and on Showtime’s Shameless and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire—plays Jess, Harry’s working-class love interest who is met with disapproval from the Royal Family. Kate Skinner performs the role of Camilla; Skinner is a regular at Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC and has appeared on Broadway in The Graduate and Uncle Vanya. Sarah Chalcroft, recent London transplant to Chicago, makes an appearance as Princess Diana.
In his 23rd Chicago Shakespeare production, Sean Fortunato appears as England’s Prime Minister, Mr. Evans. David Lively portrays Mr. Stevens, the head of the opposition party, in his 22nd CST performance. Jonathan Weir (James Reiss), Lawrence Grimm (Clive/Sir Gordon/Speaker of the House) and Demetrios Troy (Spencer/Paul) all return to Chicago Shakespeare. Jen Johansen (Sarah/TV Producer) and Sam Pearson (Couttsey/Sir Michael) make their CST debuts. Grant Niezgodski, Jeff Parker, Tyrone Phillips and Megan Storti make up the ensemble.
Costume Designer Mara Blumenfeld channels the real-life fashions of the British Royal Family, from highly ornamental state uniforms to the daily wear of Kate, Harry and William. Blumenfeld is a frequent collaborator with Griffin, having previously designed Road Show, Sunday in the Park with George and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at CST. Scenic Designer Scott Davis, along with Associate Scene Designer Alan Schwanke, creates a world that evokes the distinctive settings of the play—including Buckingham Palace, the British Parliament, and 10 Downing Street. King Charles III is Davis’ twenty-fifth production at Chicago Shakespeare, an extensive history that includes Tug of War: Foreign Fire and Civil Strife, Ride the Cyclone, Pericles and Road Show. Also on the award-winning design team are Lighting Designers Philip Rosenberg and Joel Shier and Sound Designers
Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen. King Charles III is Rosenberg’s 15th production, including recent designs for Othello, Henry
V and Gypsy. Milburn and Bodeen have been collaborators for over thirty years, with joint credits on and off Broadway. The duo was recently awarded New York’s Lucille Lortel for Outstanding Sound Design in 2016. King Charles III marks the return of Wig and Make-Up Designer Richard Jarvie, who with this production takes over as Chicago Shakespeare’s resident Wig Master.
Jarvie designed 28 productions in CST’s early history, most recently The Tempest in 2002. Jarvie has also worked extensively with Canada’s Stratford Festival, the Guthrie Theater and was with the Lyric Opera of Chicago for 28 years—11 of them as Wig Master and Make-up Designer. Rounding out the creative team is Assistant Director Lavina Jadhwani and Dialect Coach
For more information about the production, visit www.chicagoshakes.com/KingCharlesIII.
King Charles III is performed at Chicago Shakespeare Theater now through January 15, 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at www.chicagoshakes.com.
CST strives to make its facility and performances accessible to all patrons through its Access Shakespeare programs. King Charles III will have an Audio-described performance on December 4, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. (with Touch Tour at 12:00 p.m.), Open-captioned performances on December 29, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. and December 30, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. and an ASL Duo-interpreted performance on Friday, January 6, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
Sometimes, it's better hearing me in a British accent. Click the red button below.