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King Charles III impresses in New York

Here's what the US critics thought of Mike Bartlett's hit play

Tim Pigot-Smith as King Charles III
© Tristram Kenton

Zachary Stewart, TheaterMania

"It's a bold experiment with form and content that pays off in delightful and unexpected ways."

"Rupert Goold directs the production with simultaneous efficiency and grandeur."

"Jocelyn Pook's pulsating original music, a spine-tingling synthesis of old and new, underscores the important rituals of the play as well as key moments of dialogue (sound designer Paul Arditti adds the soundtrack in a seamlessly cinematic manner)."

"Pigott-Smith leads the cast with the kind of overwrought intensity we've come to expect from tragic Shakespearean kings... He wears his fear of losing himself to the office like an albatross, weighing down his increasingly ponderous gait."

Marilyn Stasio, Variety

"British playwright Mike Bartlett's fascinating "future history" play finds the beloved queen dead and Britain's new king — in a spellbinding performance by the amazing Tim Pigott-Smith — awaiting his coronation."

"Director Rupert Goold's ingeniously abstract staging calls upon the players in this Almeida Theater production to amplify — even to the point of parody — the correlation of the real-life characters they play to the Shakespearean models they're based on."

"The play is dead serious. The direction is pitiless. And the supporting cast is superb."

Ben Brantley, New York Times

"Any echoes you may infer regarding a certain Danish prince are entirely appropriate to this dazzlingly presumptuous drama, set in and around Buckingham Palace in a highly foreseeable future."

"Yet as portrayed by Tim Pigott-Smith, in a fully fleshed performance that finds heroic dimensions in one man's misguided bid for greatness, this unsteady monarch acquires a pathos that might indeed be called Shakespearean."

"Directed with fiery wit and rushing momentum by Rupert Goold"

"With King Charles III, Mr. Bartlett sails with bravado over every high hurdle he sets up."

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"Bartlett offers a fiendishly clever and yet serious questioning of the role of royalty in the 21st century. And lest anyone fear that this is all too English for American tastes, a concluding note about the "pretty plastic picture" of a monarchy with no meaning would seem eminently relatable to a culture that's content to anoint Kanye and Kim as its king and queen."

"While there are interludes of pageantry that mark key turning points, what's most notable about Goold's direction here is its restraint. Unlike his hyperkinetic productions of Macbeth, with Patrick Stewart, or Enron, which tanked on Broadway after much London success, the focus is not on spectacle or tricks, but on the writing."

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld

"The play may be all talk, but within that talk is plenty of action, and director Rupert Goold's brisk and suspenseful production is an engaging adventure."

"As Great Britain's oldest prince to ascend to the throne (he'll be turning 67 this month), the excellent Tim Pigott-Smith combines the weary countenance of one who has been dragged through the mud for decades with the brash enthusiasm of a new ruler ready to make his mark in history; though he's aware he has comparatively little time to do so."

Check out TheaterMania's gallery of the opening night.

King Charles III runs at the Music Box Theatre in New York until 31 Jan. The UK tour of the show is currently at the Malvern Festival Theatre and moves to Guildford Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on 9 November