Fresh off an Olivier-winning run in the U.K., King Charles III, Mike Bartlett’s “future history” play, is bringing the royal family to Broadway. Opening with Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, King Charles III gives theatergoers a glimpse into a world where Charles is in charge, and he isn’t content with the king’s empty power. It’s a Shakespearean take on the question of monarchy in the modern world: These are people we’re familiar with, but they speak in metered verse, plotting and conniving like the best of the Bard’s characters. Visually, the play intrigues, too: The resemblances between the actors and the real royals are uncanny in some cases.
“It feels like the whole experience is elevated from imitation, and represents something deeper and more meaningful,” says costume designer Tom Scutt. “The greatest achievement of the piece is that it feels like a play that has been around for hundreds of years, in a way.”
Below, EW presents an exclusive first look at the cast of the royal family, as Scutt reveals how he transformed the actors into their noble doppelgängers.
Left to right: Richard Goulding, Margot Leicester, Tim Pigott-Smith, Lydia Wilson, and Oliver Chris
“As soon as we dyed [actor] Rich Goulding’s hair red, we had Harry. The costuming in this play is most effective when we see Harry in his uniform. It becomes a kind of cage: He’s forever trapped by duty, by civility, by history, by tradition. He doesn’t belong in this outfit.”
“In the U.K. production, Camilla didn’t wear this outfit. I resisted the change, because I wanted to avoid imitation of the real characters. But as soon as we did the fitting with Margot putting that hat on, and the brooch, that woman comes to life in front of you. She embodies the essence of Camilla.”
“King Charles dissolves Parliament in his military uniform, and from then on in, he doesn’t leave that costume. He never returns to the modern world, as it were: He sort of regresses and almost becomes King Lear. It’s like he slips out of time and into a Shakespeare play of his own tragedy.”
“We wanted to have something that was absolutely stylish but also totally appropriate and somber for a funeral. She’s stately, in control, and dominant, but soft as well. Lydia wears these very high stiletto platform L.K. Bennett shoes. She forms a lot of that character on those shoes.”
“Ollie Chris looks so like William, it’s unreal. There’s a real warmth and romance you feel when you see him in the uniform he wore to his wedding. It fits the bill: He looks like the front page of a magazine. For us Brits, it’s an interesting thing to address, because that is our future king.”
King Charles III opens at New York’s Music Box Theater on Nov. 1. For tickets, visit the show’s website.