Once again The Ustinov has presented a powerhouse of a production with this final piece in their 2014 programme. This is an examination of the existential world of the King, a 400 year old monarch who we are told will die by the end of the play. The Kingdom is in ruins, beautifully captured by an excellent design by Anna Fleischle.

In keeping with the world of theatre of the absurd, there is little to engage with. The opening lines complaining of the central heating and the continual countdown of how many minutes the King has left to live ensure we are observing rather than emotionally connecting with the material. However the final moments when Siobhan Redmond as Queen Marguerite is left alone with her husband turns the piece upside down with a glimpse for a moment into raw emotions, a compelling performance.

Alun Armstrong is a strong King, initially in denial and slowly losing faculties and companions as he nears his end, a powerful presence. Roy Sampson is the comical guard announcing anything that might be vaguely important whilst William Gaunt the detached Doctor, keeps the countdown ticking away.

Beth Park is a great Hollywood styled second wife, with tear stained cheeks and sunglasses. Marty Cruickshank as Juliette completes the company.

The beauty of the piece remains in the direction from Laurence Boswell, stylish snapshots of a world in decline; the alternative royal photo album as all around them turns to rubble, decay and eventual death. This may not be the most complete play of the season but the stellar cast and excellent production once again ensures that The Ustinov are delivering great theatre to all who venture through the doors.

*** (3 Stars)

Petra Schofield