British actors have turned down parts in the controversial drama, King Charles III in fear it could jeopardise their futures in receiving a knighthood or damehood. Rupert Goold directed the stage play and 90-minute BBC dramatisation. Written by Mike Bartlett and staged at the Almeida Theatre three years ago, King Charles III won an Olivier for best new play. It was also nominated for several Tony Awards after hitting Broadway.
The adapted play is not without controversy. The opening of the play features an opening scene of The Queen’s coffin. He told The Telegraph that some scenes had been altered from the stage play because of their “greatest sensitivity” in consideration of the national broadcaster.
Other sensitive elements of the BBC show which is to air on BBC2 at 9:00 pm Wednesday, 10 May, include a ghost of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall slapping Prince William, and a conniving Duchess of Cambridge plotting to depose the King as the country is in a constitutional crisis.
Goold told The Telegraph that these actors turned down the roles for fear it “might affect their future relationship with the honours system.” Even to get the play to the public, Goold revealed took many “long conversations” with lawyers; there was even one scene involving Diana that was considered “too mocking” to air on the BBC.
The late Tim Pigott-Smith, who has received an OBE, plays Charles III; with Charlotte Riley playing the Duchess of Cambridge; Margo Leicester, as the Duchess of Cornwall; Oliver Chris, as Prince William; and Richard Goulding as Prince Harry. Goold was asked by The Radio Times Magazine if there had been any difficult editorial conversations involving King Charles III with the BBC. He said: “There was one.
“The issue of greatest sensitivity was always how the funeral of The Queen would be presented and what that would mean for a BBC that covers such events for real.
“But we also changed one line in Diana’s prophecy about Charles as King because it somehow felt too mocking.
“You have to remember that, even with the stage version, we’d been through long conversations with lawyers and certain actors refusing to be involved because of how it might affect their future relationship with the honours system.”
Goold said the television film crew also made concessions to filming, as well. They shot the ghost at a distance. Goold admitted: “The director of photography was resistant to even going as close as we did.”
Though well-received while onstage, Goold acknowledged that “The TV audience is much bigger and broader. But I hope that people who think it’s going to be anti-monarchist will watch the whole thing because I think it’s nuanced.”
According to the BBC’s Royal Liaison Officer, Buckingham Palace is “aware” of the production, but they refused to say whether they discussed the show with advisors. Charles Spencer, the reviewer for The Telegraph, gave the show five stars, suggesting: “I would deferentially suggest that the Prince of Wales gives it a miss.”
Defence Minister and outgoing Tory MP, Sir Gerald Howarth said: “We have a sovereign who commands universal respect across the nation and the rest of the world. It is extraordinarily insensitive for an organisation which is so consumed with political correctness.
“It is pure indulgence by the BBC to run a play featuring the demise of the sovereign and ascribing to a popular member of the royal member [the Duchess of Cambridge] base motives.”
However, John Whittingdale, a Tory MP and former Culture Secretary disagrees. No one should be offended on behalf of Her Majesty. He explained: “It’s a drama, it’s not presented as fact.
“It was extremely well reviewed and well received as a play.
“Some of my colleagues get hysterical about this kind of thing. I don’t think The Queen is the least bit offended.
“If the BBC has commissioned a production of a decent play how can one possibly object to that? High-quality drama is at the heart of public service broadcasting.”
What do you think? Will you be watching King Charles III when it airs on BBC2 or when you are able in your country? Do you believe the dramatisation is too controversial even to be produced let alone to air? Let us know in the comments.