Future History in Progress: Behind the Scenes of King Charles III

Thought by many to be a reaction to the Queen’s death, the decision to put on this provocative yet entertaining play by Mike Bartlett was made long before it was accounted for. JOELLE LI interviews the creative team behind this momentous production by UCL Drama Society.


Like countless others, Josh Moore was struck by the news of Queen Elizabeth II being placed under medical supervision at Balmoral in September. He recalls, “I immediately texted [our producer] Jenny saying ‘Oh my God! Emergency! What do we do?’” His reasoning, however, differed from most.


Rob Davidson as William, Prince of Wales. Image by Jasmine Austin.


In April 2022, Josh was looking for a suitable play to direct at UCL’s Bloomsbury Theatre. He soon chose Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III –a ‘future history’ play written in 2014, hypothesising the political turmoil that would follow the eventual death of the Queen. The play isn’t just a dense political drama that one might expect. “It starts as…a Shakespeare-like take on a modern royal family, jolly and entertaining…and quickly it becomes quite a tragic story about a family falling apart”. Despite being penned eight years ago, it is eerily similar to how events have played out in reality. “It is really fascinating how Bartlett predicted, or almost predicted, the future”, notes producer Jenny Windbrake.


Jai Britto as Catherine, Princess of Wales. Image by Jasmine Austin.


As expected, recent events placed this choice of material in question, but ultimately the production team decided to seize this incredibly unique creative opportunity. “[Now] that the hypothetical situation [has] happened, we are facing a narrative that is parallel to real-life events,” explains Josh, “I could talk to my actors and show them footage of the Royal Family during the [Queen’s] funeral …We really get to empathise at that level…and adapt the emotions into our work.”


Angel Lolia as Camilla, Queen Consort. Image by Jasmine Austin.


Josh was also aware that this narrative needed to be treated with sensitivity and care. Depictions of the Royal Family have come back in vogue, with the latest season of The Crown premiering on Netflix in early November and Pablo Larrain’s 2021 film, Spencer, earning multiple awards. However, the British Royal Family remains a polarising topic; these fictionalisations continue to spark debate. Still, even at a place as global and diverse as UCL, Josh observes that “everyone I have spoken to has an opinion on monarchy of some kind, whether they are a UK [student] or [an] international student… There is just a natural interest in the royal family, because it’s an unusual thing.”


Lily Pouydebasque as Diana Spencer. Image by Jasmine Austin.


With the nearly seamless line between fiction and reality, media sources and news materials have been helpful for the show’s technical elements. “This is going to be a really fun show to tech because the production team have made some really interesting creative choices. We’re going to be broadcasting live the action on stage to mimic the real-life media coverage”, remarks Production Manager Maya Khurana. This has also lent itself well aesthetically. Alix Le Hello, Head of Wardrobe, gives insight into the thought process behind the design of each costume, “Harry, for example, has trouble finding his place at first. We want to show implicitly through his clothing that wherever he goes…there is a mismatch between him and the surrounding environment.”


Thomas Round as Harry, Duke of Sussex. Image by Jasmine Austin.


As one of the first productions of Bartlett’s play since the Queen’s death, what can Josh tell us about what to expect? “This is a play that is very momentous, it builds on itself.” He assures us that no one should miss the final moment.


Shahin Rezvani in the title role. Photo by Jasmine Austin.


King Charles III is running at the Bloomsbury Theatre from 17th-19th November 2022 at 19:00. For tickets, visit this link.


Featured image by Lorelei Cairns.







CategoriesJoelle Li Theatre