King Charles III was originally a play — in London, and on Broadway — and was recently adapted as a telefilm, which aired this past Sunday on Masterpiece. (If you missed it, you can watch it online at PBS for a limited time.) I don’t have time to do a full-scale, scene-by-scene recap, but I’m sure you all have thoughts, as do I. Let’s chat, shall we?
Obviously the following (and the comments) will contain spoilers if you haven’t watched this yet.
1. FWIW, I thought it was excellent, but this also falls directly into my Wheelhouse of Interests, namely Alternate Universe Royal Stories; for obvious reasons, I am also always interested in the Angst of Alternate Universe Royal Princes.
2. Both Wills and Harry have much more hair in this version than they do in real life; although their Wills (Oliver Chris) feels visually right, their Harry is also rather old-looking/less handsome comparatively (No disrespect to Richard Goulding.), although this is the second program in which this actor has played Prince Harry. Charlotte Riley is a good approximation of Kate visually; of the Wills/Harry/Kate trio, she is the only one who didn’t first play the part onstage.
3. It makes me laugh that this version of the world imagines that Kate as a vaguely Lady Macbeth-like character. It’s an interesting character choice that I applaud for its unexpectedness, and I enjoy that Kate’s given such agency in this story — it makes her much more INTERESTING than she might otherwise be, without the requirement that we spend a lot of time getting to know her inner self (which you often need in order to be invested in a kinder, blander character), and it gives Kate credit for having a lot of brains, which I also liked. Charlotte Riley is really, really good in the part; clever, bossy, tough.
4. It is certainly not the fault of this show, but I might, on a personal level, need a break from programming that involves British Rulers Standing Around Talking To Prime Ministers in Drawing Rooms. I found those parts… theoretically interesting but a bit dry in practice, and I think that’s because I am personally tapped out on them after The Crown. I DO think The Shenanigans That Charles Might Get Up To After The Queen Dies are interesting, but I just sort of….zoned out on them until Shit Got Real about halfway through? (I may have also Charles-ed out myself after reporting on his bio in such depth.) Once Everything Goes To Hell Between Chaz and Wills, I was back in, but Walking Around Talking About Paperwork has begun to cross my eyes.
5. Obviously, I always appreciate a story where a prince gets involved with a commoner/socialist; in this case, it’s Harry. HER NAME IS JESSICA. I approve! (Hearing, “My love for Jessica comes first!!!!” was a delight for me on a profoundly personal level.) I do feel that their entire romance was given short-shift in terms of story time devoted to it — it veers a bit into InstaLove and then InstaHeartbreak; I know a fair amount of the play was cut for time and I wonder how much of it we lost –but the actress, Tamara Lawrance, is great, and I wanted to spent more time with her. (I also wonder how many people scoffed at the idea of Prince Harry dating a black woman with a non-aristrocratic background as being unrealistic when this was pitched.) The ending of this storyline is certainly a rude gut-punch. COME FOR DRINKS WITH ME, JESSICA. The Conclave of the Jessicas is ENRAGED about your treatment at Fake Harry’s hands and our revenge will be swift!
6. I read that the appearance of Diana’s Ghost is often greeted by laughs in the theatrical version, and that was very annoying to the playwright; I didn’t find it funny in this version. What did you think? (I thought it was an effective nod to the obvious Shakespearian influences in the play.) I did think her wig was awful, though. (Likewise, Camilla’s hair was insufficiently GIGANTIC for my tastes.)
7. I kept thinking that the actress who played Camilla, Margot Leicester, was the same actress who played Bridget Jones’s mother. She is not, but it kept making me think of Tarts and Vicars parties, which this programming sadly lacks.
8. One cannot write a story about the royals without delving into questions of the press and blackmail, it seems, nor tackle whether or not Various Princes Want to Just BE NORMAL!!!!
9. I think everyone has considered what might happen if Charles abdicated for William (which I don’t think will ever happen in reality) and this is a very interesting take on that question, in part because…it is very unexpected to think that William would force it. Obviously.
What did you think? I know many of you saw the play in the theatre, and I’m interested to know if you think it translated; I do think that the quasi-Shakespearean dialogue in sections is well-used (and clever) but I suspect it worked more effectively on stage than on television. LET’S DISCUSS.