Critics' Circle Review The Madness of George III

The Madness of George III

Out of the many plays I have witnessed overall, The Madness Of George III is my absolute favourite. After being first performed in November of 1991 at the National Theatre, London, Alan Bennett’s gripping play has been taken to the stage many times and the Playhouse’s take on it was no exception. There was hardly anything you could fault.

Firstly I would like to give credit to the incredible capturing of an historical play about royalty by using costume and set. To capture the 1700s era the costumes were incredibly well designed. For example the use of colour in the costumes to highlight the hierarchy that was so rigidly set in place was really effective. Vibrant colours were worn by the king and the people who worked closely around him to show his wealth and status, whereas the physicians who weren’t as such high status as the king wore dull, muted colours as a result. The smoothly rotating set gave the impression to the audience that the setting of the play was massive, as it was set in a castle fit for the king. This also helped to capture the wealth of the royalty as they would have been the only people able to afford buildings of that scale other than nobles of that country.

The second thing I want people to be aware of is the breathtakingly stunning acting of George III by Mark Gatiss. I have never seen somebody so talented in being able to capture the realities of mental illness in a way that doesn’t hold back yet at the same time wasn’t mocking or undermining it. His abilities to shift from a king, assertive and high of power to a man stripped of his status whilst being ridiculed was astonishing. Overall, the chemistry between all of the characters was perfect and I believe that that is very hard to nail perfectly.

In conclusion, it is evidently clear that this play is a MUST SEE. Despite it being set in the 1700s, the importance of mental Illness and the interest in the royal family is still extremely relevant today. The play is being performed every day from 2nd November – 24th November so I definitely recommend that you go see it while it’s still showing.

Ella O’Brien

What Actually Happened to King George?

On Tuesday 6th November I saw The Madness of George III at the Nottingham Playhouse. Throughout the years I have seen multiple Playhouse shows but this was one of the funniest yet confusing shows I’ve seen so far. During the first act, I found I was confused by the plot line and that it dragged on for too long. It was unclear as to how King George became ‘mad’ and what the illness was before it. Then after the interval I felt like I was seeing a whole new show altogether. The jokes became funnier, the plot line clearer and the actors (and audience) seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot more than before. I wasn’t quite sure whether the madness had got to the actors’ heads as well as George’s. However, the second act brightened up my evening.

Whilst watching the show, I was drawn in by the incredible acting skills of Nadia Albina who displayed wonderful characteristics when playing Fitzroy – a male character. I enjoyed the way she used her body language and gait to present a comedic male role from her viewpoint. Which brings me to the point that I enjoyed the most, after Adam Penford’s last show I saw – Wonderland – being such a male-heavy cast. I thought it was amazing that so many females were used in this show even though a majority of the roles were male.

The set was very creative in the way it incorporated many different rooms into one piece of scenery. It involved two corner pieces of set that revolved on two wheels. This was effective because it created multiple different rooms without the hassle of moving set on and off stage. As well as that the gauze incorporated into the walls created a nice unique design to this set unlike others I’ve seen.

Overall, I think the show was very enjoyable and I would love to see it again! I recommend this show to anyone who is thinking about going to see it as it is a thoroughly entertaining evening for the family.

Hannah Spencer

‘I am the King’…’No Sir you are the Patient’

Under Adam Penford’s ingenious direction Alan Bennett’s masterpiece The Madness of George III has finally hit the Nottingham Playhouse’s stage. Set in 1788, it follows the journey of the King who, having reigned from 1760, finds his life and the nation’s stability threatened by his unexpected descent into madness. With its elaborate set design and extraordinary Olivier Award-winning cast, with Mark Gatiss as the lead, the production foregrounded questions surrounding power and identity.

It is rare to have the atmosphere of the play transpire into the auditorium before its onset but Designer Robert Jones has outdone himself. Transforming the stage curtain to a lavish gold and purple replica of an embellished cloth or fabric spoke loudly of the Royal Court’s opulence. The decision to paint this, as opposed to acquiring coloured fabric, gave the illusion of reality, of 3D. It wasn’t until much later on when the King announced “I’ve always been myself, even when I was ill. Only now I seem myself. And that’s the important thing” did I realise the curtain’s part in spearheading the play’s theme of appearance vs. reality. The decadent atmosphere culminated in the set’s imposing, life-sized walls, columns and doors that rotated to model different interiors. Having the servants handle this design meant that the scenes transitioned effortlessly, aesthetically mirroring the speed at which the King’s health declined.

In conjunction, Sound Designer Tom Gibbons’ meticulous use of music brought the King’s regality to each individual in the audience. The inclusion of the King’s favourite composer George Handel, the loud sound effects of crowds cheering and religious, almost overpowering, operatic-sounding choral songs made his entrances and exits dramatically prominent. Similarly, Wardrobe Supervisor Poppy Hall’s attention to history brought the image of 1788 to life. The pristine outfits of the King’s staff along with the excessive and powerful clothing adorning the monarchy contrasted with the simplicity and increasingly dirty-looking clothes and nightgown worn by the mad King.

Alongside the King’s costume was Mark Gatiss’ outstanding performance. His characterisation of the King’s transformation into madness was truthful to the extent of it becoming uncomfortable and emotionally painful to watch. The attention to his physicality and body language was astonishing – the walking on the instep of the left foot created a limp and lopsided stance whilst his raised but limp left arm hinted at his inability to control anything. It became even more heart-breaking when wheeled onto stage, the once tall, perfect-postured king was curled into a ball with his knees tucked into his abdomen and his shoulder hunched forward, causing his head to droop. Despite this, Gatiss’ attention to detail meant that he, alongside the doctors, was able to convey the witty, back-and-forwards commentary needed to lighten the mood.

With such collaborative teamwork and Mark Gatiss’ superb acting the production was a knockout success. I found myself crying and laughing simultaneously and I couldn’t help but wish I could re-watch it immediately.

Jade Braham

The Madness of King George – a historical masterpiece

King George III is famous for his madness and only slightly less famous is this wonderful play, brought to life at the Playhouse through a team of artistic geniuses. Every single cast and crew member used the full extent of their talents to present us all with a play that will live on in infamy.

The set was elegantly brilliant and hit a historic mark by having everyone, bar the king, move it around them. This demonstrates how everyone, regardless of intentions, controlled his life even when he was of sound mind. The Playhouse is growing in ambition when it comes to their sets and really lends a hand to the actors by creating an ever-changing world around them.

The costumes were accurate of the time period and a work of art in themselves. It seemed as though the weight of the costumes was from that era and reflected the responsibilities everyone had. This is particularly important to the king as the play progressed, as the more the treatments go on, the less status he has and his grand clothes are stripped away. The wigs are really very interesting as they vary from status to status and once again reflected the styles of the period. It is interesting how the regular doctors have very frizzy and out-of-control wigs, possibly as an insight into their medical knowledge (or lack thereof), while Doctor Willis has a very tamed and neat wig.

Now we come to the actors, who all delivered a wonderful and insightful performance, as we have come to expect from a Playhouse production. It was truly an ensemble piece, even with some extremely well-renowned actors in the cast. Even with important and serious topics being the focal point of the entire play, we were still laughing throughout. All the individual relationships shine through and we immediately understand what kind they are. The one that stood out for me was between the king and queen which resonated with love and kindness. This is refreshing to witness given how many relationships of that time seemed cold and distant. It was truly a love match.

In truth, I cannot do justice to this magnificent piece of art but please believe me when I say it is an amazing play and you should be flocking to go and see it, before it is too late.

Rachael Wells

The Madness of George III’ is a comedic and brilliant piece that I am delighted to have been able to see! One of many exceptional pieces produced by Nottingham Playhouse, with perfectly timed humour but is also moving in parts.

Alan Bennett’s play, directed by Adam Penford, tells the history of England’s King in 1788 and his fast unravelling illness. It shows the Queen and Prime Minister’s desperate attempts to conceal his illness from England’s subjects and the doctors’ struggles to find a cure, by attempting to treat him with unimaginable tortuous treatments; battling against time and the Prince of Wales who is all to eager to become regent.

One phenomenal aspect of the play was the designer Robert Jones’ terrific set design, made able to twist and turn to create another scene swiftly. It almost seemed to echo the twisting of the King’s mind and the instability of the crown that appeared in this testing time. Not to mention the sublime quality of the sets, with simple yet effective qualities that were noticeable and fabricated perfectly the royal rooms of a Georgian palace, but didn’t draw the attention away from the performance.

The sound throughout the performance (designed by Tom Gibbons) was cued perfectly and its placement created a feel among the audience of being part of the performance as though we were the subjects. The exquisite and beautiful costumes (wardrobe supervisor Poppy Hall and designer Robert Jones) oozed royalty in every stitch and gave the performance a stunning glow, as well as showing the audience the demoralising work of the doctors to the King through his sudden change to dull clothing, creating a strong sense of sympathy and warming towards King George III.

I find it hard to find fault in such an incredible performance with the ability to seemingly at ease have the audience laughing at points and to also create such intense and moving scenes that made it impossible not to find a place in your heart for the King.

The acting from all of the actors worked together in perfect balance to create such an outstanding performance, full of passion, emotion and comedy. Although special mention must go to Mark Gatiss who played King George III with such exceptional ability. Delivering both comedy to the audience perfectly, and creating atmosphere and emotions within the audience faultlessly, I don’t think anyone’s heart wasn’t aching for him at parts. Also, Wilf Scolding who played the Prince of Wales sparked a hilarious and comical character, sure to leave a smile on everyone’s face at his delivery of lines and ridiculous manner and actions. And lastly, Adrian Scarborough whose performance as Dr Willis created within seconds of his appearance a cold and tense atmosphere among the audience with his blunt and cold manner of treatment…

As a whole, an amazing performance suitable for all from teens and over. A piece easy to suit a wide audience and most entertaining.

Sasha Hylton

The Madness of King George III

Alan Bennett’s “The Madness of King George III” was a stunning performance. It was exciting but nerve raking performance that was full of jokes. It really made you want to both laugh and cry.

It starts with an impressive looking King George entering the stage to say hello to all his subjects. That night when he climbs into bed he decides that his stomach is hot, in fact it feels like it is burning. He continues to develop a huge range of symptoms like talking without stopping and speaking his thoughts. Three different doctors see him assessing many different aspects including the pulse and the stool. None of them seem to be able to help his recover from his “illness” they try a variety of methods including potions and blistering of the skin. Unfortunately there was no progress made on the improvement of his “madness”. Lady Pembroke then suggests a different doctor named Dr Willis. He comes and restrain him. Meanwhile the government is falling to pieces – with no George to pass important messages and sign official document- but they must pretend that all is normal. After a couple of months of gagging and restraining, George starts to return to a vague sort of normality.

The set used in the play (designed by Robert Jones) was stunning. The way the actors were effortlessly able to move the set was great. It was fairly simplistic set Georgian rooms which moved around. I talked to the assistant director beforehand about the set design- it was really key to them that the set represented something- the movement of the mind.

It was such an insight to the uses of medicine in the 1700s and how they treated people’s mental health. It was also a great insight to how the monarchy is perceived. Overall the performance was amazing and I really enjoyed it.

Naomi Thomas