Political play in Brighton aims to create King Charles III’s future history

Jennifer Bryden and Ben Righton in King Charles III. Picture by Richard Hubert Smith
Jennifer Bryden and Ben Righton in King Charles III. Picture by Richard Hubert Smith

King Charles III, which comes to the Theatre Royal Brighton from February 8-13, takes the nation forward to a moment of constitutional crisis after Prince Charles has finally acceded to the throne.

Playing Kate to Robert Powell’s Charles is Jennifer Bryden. She’s promising a fascinating night.

“It’s an important play politically in terms of the status of the royal family, but it is brilliant writing. (Playwright) Mike (Bartlett) knew when he had the idea for the play that it needed to be epic in form because the subject is so epic in scale, the royal family, the state of the nation. It is a very muscular piece.

“He calls it a modern history play or a future history play. He has copied the five Acts of Shakespeare and done the same, and it works brilliantly. It is funny. It is witty. It is conversational. And it is important.

“What struck me is that we have been living with the same monarch for 60 years, three or four generations under the same monarch. My grandfather had the same queen, as have my nephews, and I don’t think we realise how much she is specifically tied up with the identity of our nation, how much (when she dies) that is going to change massively. That’s why I think it is a really important play.

“Even in her time, the Queen has changed massively and has had to adapt to changing times. What is expected of her has changed. To think she would do a mock jump out of a helicopter for the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games would have been just laughed at 60 years ago. What she has recognised is that she has had to bring the brand up-to-date, but I think the royal family has struck a balance. They have kept their mystique.

“It is not like the Dutch or the Danish royal family that you might just see cycling about. They have remained an unknown entity to a certain extent.”

As for playing living, breathing figures, Jennifer recognises the burden: “There is a real sense of responsibility. I don’t think it is something we have taken lightly, but I think what has been really important, from day one of rehearsals, is that we have tried to play the characters in the play and not just do some kind of Spitting Image impersonation.

“They are real people but the story that we are putting them in on stage is fabricated. We have got to treat our characters as we would any other characters. Kate especially is seen in the play as not the character that we see day-to-day. Most licence has been taken with her character probably because she is the one that we know least about. But if we got too wrapped up in the fact that these are real people, it would become a very different play.”

And no, Jennifer really wouldn’t want to see the real Kate sitting there in the front row of the audience.

“I would be terrified quite frankly, but I don’t think she would want to see it either. I don’t think anyone ever wants to see themselves fictionalised on stage.

“Inevitably we have taken artistic licence, and this is my interpretation of someone I don’t actually know and that I have only ever seen in one context…. So no, I don’t think she would enjoy it!”

Tickets cost £16.90 - £42.40. Call 0844 871 7650 or click here.

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