DVD Review: MASTERPIECE: KING CHARLES III (PBS)

by Dale Reynolds on July 23, 2017

in CD-DVD

Post image for DVD Review: MASTERPIECE: KING CHARLES III (PBS)

A ROYAL PERFORMANCE

When British actor Tim Pigott-Smith died this past spring a month shy of his 71st birthday, the Community of Actors lost a legend. He came to fame three decades ago in The Jewel in the Crown, the dazzling series about the end of British rule in India. A consistently working actor, his last role on film was the pinnacle of his talents, that of King Charles III by Mike Bartlett, adapted from his 2014 West End hit play.

The just-released DVD on PBS Distribution is subtitled: “The Queen is Dead. Long Live the King.” Ironic, to be sure. While performed as a Shakespeare history play, this one reveals future history, not the Hundred Years War or War of the Roses, and, though it’s in blank verse, it’s not Shakespeare. Engagingly directed by Rupert Goold, King Charles III peers into the immediate decades to speculate, both magnificently and melodramatically, about the merits of the monarchy. It posits that Prince Charles of the royal Windsor Family, in his late 60s, has finally ascended the Throne of Great Britain.

He is ready to rule, but clashes instantly with the Prime Minister (Adam James) over a bill he considers unconstitutional. But because of the rigid rules surrounding what a monarch may or may not do, it causes a near revolution, ending in a surprise betrayal by his family.

More you do not need to know, except to know that Bartlett’s plotting and dialogue is exceedingly excellent, full of surprises, wit, and a cool understanding of what the people of the U.K. will take, and how they exhibit both love and frustration with their paid royalty. Bartlett’s play and screenplay are part political thriller, part family drama, and totally fascinating.

Pigott-Smith turned in a magnificent performance, as did the exquisitely well-cast supporting players: James’s P.M.; Oliver Chris’s Prince William; Charlotte Riley as his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge; Richard Goulding as Prince Henry (the “spare” in the adage “The heir and the spare”); Margot Leicester as Queen Camilla; John Shrapnel as the Archbishop of Canterbury; and many others.

There’s no indication if any of the Royals saw the play, or even this MASTERPIECE version; Oh! To have been a fly on the wall if  indeed they did. But they would certainly have approved the casting. RIP, Tim Pigott-Smith, OBE.

MASTERPIECE: King Charles III
Drama Republic production for BBC and MASTERPIECE
PBS Distribution
1 disc | 88 minutes | not rated
released June 27, 2017
available at shopPBS and Amazon
for more info, visit MASTERPIECE

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