Three Kings

After much anticipation, yesterday was the day that I got to sit down in my living room, with my boyfriend and enjoy some live theatre! As part of the Old Vic’s In Camera season the theatre live streamed the production of a new play, Three Kings by Stephen Beresford starring Andrew Scott.

As this was a new play I had little to go on except the description on the Old Vic’s website:

When Patrick is eight years old his absent father returns unexpectedly and in a brief but memorable encounter, sets him the challenge of ‘The Three Kings’. Years later – recalling that meeting, and the revelations that followed – Patrick traces the events of his father’s life – and takes us on a journey of grandiose plans, aching disappointments and audacious self delusion.
By turns, hilarious and heartbreaking, Three Kings is about fathers and sons, the gifts and burdens of inheritance, and the unfathomable puzzle of human relationships.

I really enjoyed having only a vague idea of what I would be seeing. So often I have preconceptions of plays whether they be from other friends, reviews or books and films. It was refreshing to watch something from a completely fresh perspective, ready to make my own interpretations, unaffected by other opinions.

Scott takes on multiple roles, including Patrick, his father and his brother, seamlessly switching from character to character in continuous dialogue. As stated in the Old Vic description the play explores the relationship between a father and son made from the the few encounters they have and the scraps of information Patrick can find. The story is linear but each scene is a significant jump forward from the last. By doing this Beresford conveys how little the two really see each other, despite the fact that the play is all about their relationship. You are taken on an emotional journey, witnessing the impact upon children who barely see their father, desperate to engage and build a relationship. You are left asking the question is it inevitable that we turn into our parents even if we barely know them?

For an hour long play Three Kings has a lot to give. Beresford is incredibly clever in revealing background information and filling in story line gaps produced by jumping forwards in time. He makes these reveals a part of the dialogue, meaning they are in no way laborsome or distracting, giving the play a great flow and pace. This is of course aided by some brilliant acting. Each of Scott’s characters is distinctive and clear, full of emotion and powerful with it. Although the play focuses on Patrick and his father, Scott’s portrayals of the minor characters inclines you to truly empathise with them, even if this is only fleetingly.

I do wish the play could have been longer, but I think that is more to do with personal preferences, I don’t believe there was any detrimental effect upon the play for being only an hour long.

Just like Lungs, the stripped back stage and lighting, accompanied by the triptych camera style gives a unique intimate feel to the play, as though you are the only person in the audience. While I obviously love the atmosphere of being in a crowded theatre, and I hope, when safe, we are able to go back again soon, I am really appreciating this innovative form of production.

Conclusion: This is a short and powerful play, full of emotion, forcing you to ask questions about parental relationships. Are we destined to become our parents? If so what does that mean for us? Excellent writing and acting are combined to bring to the stage what feels like an effortless production, easy to become absorbed in.

Rating: ★★★★

The play is now completely sold out, but if you are interested in watching an Old Vic In Camera performance head over to their website (link below) on Monday 7th September at 10am to get tickets for Faith Healer by Brian Friel, starring Michael Sheen, Indira Varma and David Threlfall.

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