“The Madness Of George III” by Alan Bennett
Since the announcement of this play, there has been a buzz in the local theatre community as big and excited as a swarm of very big and excited bees. That buzz came to fruition tonight and yes yes, it was well worth the wait!
Alan Bennett is one of the sharpest and articulate modern writers around but this play, you may argue, doesn’t have much of a plot. King George III gets ill in Act One and in Act two, he gets better.
That said the main focus can be held on our two main characters, The King and the Doctor and this is where the strengths of this play are. It takes two very strong and charismatic actors to keep you focused on the stage and the story and in Mark Gatiss (George III) and Adrian Scarborough (Dr Willis).
George III is known as being the “mad king who lost America”. Over the years medical research has since diagnosed the “madness” as a genetic blood disorder called porphyria, although there is still a belief that George III did actually suffer from mental illness all along.
The medical procedures are more at home within the torture chamber as the King is gagged, straight-jacketed, blistered and forcibly imprisoned in his throne, which is more like an electric chair than a regal symbol. All of this and Bennett’s humour still shines through the darker story line..
An interesting incite as well into how the treatment and understanding of mental illness has developed over the centuries.
Mark Gatiss is one very versatile actor and his talent for comedy and serious are both showcased in this play. I've seen many of my TV heroes on stage, and seeing Mark Gatiss is another one ticked off the list. You feel the horror and the pain of the tortuous remedies and laugh freely at his natural delivery of Bennett's wonderful comic lines.
In contrast to Gatiss' extremities, Adrian Scarborough is controlled and forceful at all times, and seeing these two masters at work is a joy for any theatre goer.
There really is nothing I can say to show just how good the acting of Gatiss and Scarborough is, but they are also surrounding by an incredibly good cast in Debra Gillett (The Queen), Nicholas Bishop (William Pitt), Nadia Albina (Fitzroy), Amanda Hadingue (Dr Pepys), Jack Holden (Greville), David Hounslow (Thurlow), Stephanie Jacobs (Dr Baker), Louise Jameson (Dr Warren), Andrew Joshi (Dundas), Adam Karim (Fortnum), Harry Kershaw (Duke Of York), Billy Postlethwaite (Braun), Sara Powell (Lady Pembroke), Wilf Scolding (Prince Of Wales) and Jessica Temple (Papandiek)
Directed by Adam Penford, this was one snappy show with some smooth scene changes. Designed by Robert Jones. the sets by the way are just wonderful and very cleverly designed they are, yes yes.
Making the scene changes effortless and easy on the eye is also down to the lighting design (Richard Howell) and the sound design (Tom Gibbons). A big success also for the stage management team of Jane Eliot-Webb, Stevie Haighton and Kathryn Bainbridge-Wilson.
The costumes, wigs and make up, as you'd expect are incredibly good.
It is also to the credit of Director, Adam Penford that he had the pulling power to attract actors of this calibre to the Playhouse.
That is also borne out by the live broadcast by National Theatre Live of this play from the Nottingham Playhouse stage on Tuesday 20 November 2018 to over 700 UK cinema screens, and even more world wide.
“The Madness of George III” is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 24 November 2018. One not to be missed for so many reasons.