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A monarch in deed: Brussels Shakespeare Society stages play ‘King Charles III’

Brussels Shakespeare Society present King Charles III
16:36 10/10/2023

The Brussels Shakespeare Society performs Mike Bartlett’s entertaining and provocative play King Charles III at the Mercelis Theatre in Ixelles from 24 to 28 October.

Previously staged in London, New York, and Washington DC, the 2014 play about the present British royal family was also adapted into a television drama that aired on the BBC in 2017.

In the play, the Queen has just passed away, and Prince Charles has finally become King Charles III. But Charles wants to be king in deed and not just in name – a monarch with ‘heart’, he says, not just a Spitting Image puppet. When a labour prime minister presents for the King’s signature a bill restricting the freedom of the press, Charles refuses to sign. The resulting confrontation between king and parliament threatens the monarchy’s existence.

For the Brussels production, first-time director Johanna Kainz stresses the human elements of the play. “At its heart, it’s a story about flawed people,” she says. “It's the story of a man trying to make his mark with a mother who cast an immense shadow. And it raises a bigger question: what is the role of a monarch in the 21st century? Does it hold a bigger role than that of a postage stamp?”

The title role is played by Jonathon Sawdon, a professional actor, part-time teacher, and mainstay of the Brussels theatre scene who was previously the lead in Macbeth and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot. He believes that a Brussels audience will appreciate the play’s witty and deft combination of theatre and politics. “And for those who don’t know Shakespeare,” he says, “the style of the piece, coupled with the modern language, is a good entry point for approaching Shakespeare’s plays.”

The international cast includes actors from Portugal, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the US, among other countries. Director Kainz, from Austria, describes what drew her to this drama about British palace intrigue. “It’s funny, it’s edgy, it’s surprisingly relatable, and it’s enjoyable for a non-British audience. And it’s not as intimidating as Shakespeare can be sometimes.”

Tickets for the play can be purchased through the Society’s website. Discounts are available for groups and students.

For its next production, the BSS will return to its roots with Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, scheduled for its bi-annual Shakespeare festival in June 2024.

King Charles III
24-28 October
Mercelis Theatre
Rue Mercelis 13

Photo of BSS in rehearsal: Prince Harry (Thomas Kaye) introduces his girlfriend Jess (Joanna Case-Lumley) to King Charles (Jonathon Sawdon) and Queen Camilla (Boff Muir), as royal advisor James Reiss (Edward Tersmette, far left) listens