The Madness of King George III: Alan Bennett
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval: till 24 November
By now it’s a well-known plot. In 1788, shortly after the loss of the American colonies. King George III of Great Britain is stricken by a mysterious malady involving a bewildering range of physical and psychiatric symptoms, from blue waters to hallucinations. He eventually recovers.
The Madness of George III is a fine play; that much we already know. A pleasure to report therefore that this production, from Nottingham Playhouse Artistic Director Adam Penford, is a triumph. The press night audience was right to give it a standing ovation at the end, not just for the leading actor but for the whole package.
Mark Gatiss, as the King himself, is a masterly piece of observation. In speech and gesture, he captures a vigorous, witty and humane king, husband and family man; and his descent into a hell of madness and physical torment. It’s supremely well done.
His “Mr and Mrs King” scenes sitting up in the four-poster with Debra Gillet, a delight as Queen Charlotte, are a joy. The most heart-rending moment of the evening is when the couple are separated. And it’s lent added poignancy by the background sound of a soaring female voice – the use of Handel’s music is a major pleasure of the evening.
Acting throughout is first-rate, with other outstanding performances from David Hounslow, as the greedy, time-serving Lord Chancellor Thurlow, and Adrian Scarborough’s stridently non-sycophantic Dr Willis from Lincolnshire, a prototype psychiatrist who presides over the recovery, an albeit incomplete one.
All the other doctors are know-nothing quacks – that anyone in the audience has more medical knowledge than all of them working together is just one example of the dramatic irony which is a feature of Alan Bennett’s brilliant script.
The clever, adaptable stage design emphasises the power and majesty of monarchy, and at the same time facilitates exhilarating and unfussy changes of setting.
The production is being filmed live for cinema audiences in the UK and worldwide.
Fitzroy: Nadia Albina
William Pitt: Nicholas Bishop
George III: Mark Gatiss
Queen Charlotte: Debra Gillett
Fox/Dr Pepys: Amanda Hadingue
Greville: Jack Holden
Thurlow: David Hounslow
Dr Baker/Sheridan: Stephanie Jacob
Dr Warren: Louise Jameson
Dundas: Andrew Joshi
Fortnum: Adam Karim
Duke of York: Harry Kershaw
Brown: Billy Postlethwaite
Lady Pembroke: Sara Powell
Dr Willis: Adrian Scarborough
Prince of Wales: Wilf Scolding
Papandiek: Jessica Temple
Director: Adam Penford
Designer: Robert Jones
Lighting Designer: Richard Howell
Sound Designer: Tom Gibbons