Reviewed by Nigel Chester
Nottingham Playhouse goes from strength to strength and once again delivered a triumph of theatre under Adam Penfords’ artistic directorship. On 20 November 2018, he will oversee the National Theatre Live broadcasting from the Playhouse to over 700 UK cinemas and many more worldwide, see www.ntlive.com.
The Madness of George III, a major work by the outstanding writer Alan Bennett, first staged in 1991 and by 1994, an Oscar nominated motion picture.
Nottingham Playhouse had a formidable history to live up to, and it took on the challenge and produced one of the best two hours of theatre that I have ever seen. It wasn’t without some fleabite moments, that for me stopped the fully immersive experience, but in reality it would be churlish to draw attention to them. So, let me tell you about the amazing theatre that I was lucky enough to be part of. Firstly, the stage sets were like origami, turned and folded to transmorph from bedchamber to parliament, from Windsor to Kew.
Lighting (Richard Howell), set design and staging, was so good that everyone on stage must have felt transported to each place in turn.
The cast, large in number, I think I counted 17, each performed outstandingly, but paled in the presence of Mark Gatiss (George III). I have never witnessed such a performance as Gatiss gave; his physical and mental pain was tangible and I was shocked at the cruelty and depravity that was visited upon the King, arguably the most powerful man in the world, by his physicians, in the name of science and medicine, as well as his court and his son the Prince of Wales (Wilf Scolding), who took his father’s plight, and turned it to further his own agenda.
There is a synergy to this performance that is rarely seen, and I would urge everyone to see it, live if possible, if you’re unable to travel to Nottingham, find a local cinema showing, settle down with your popcorn and be prepared for a sublime performance.
The play is an accurate portrayal of one episode of George III madness which lasted for several months, it uses humour and human nature in buckets full, it shows us, an audience in the 21st century, that the issues of the 18th century remain relevant. Politics, power, family and mental health issues, each resonate loudly today.
The music of Handel was woven throughout and added a dynamic feeling to the performance which was one of the most spectacular pieces of theatre I have ever seen.
Tickets cost from £8.50 to £37.50 (booking fees may apply).
The Madness of George III is at the Nottingham Playhouse from 2-24 November 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 941 9419.
Nottingham Playhouse, Wellington Circus, Nottingham, NG1 5AF | 0115 941 9419