Feature

The Madness of George III

Even as the king “descends into hysteria and despair,” he seems only a little more deranged than the world surrounding him, said James Hebert in The San Diego Union-Tribune. 

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The downfall of King George III of England mirrors that of another tortured monarch—King Lear, said Daryl Miller in the Los Angeles Times. Alan Bennett’s 1991 play imitates Shakespeare’s work by painting George’s descent into mental illness as a gradual process that’s accelerated by “backroom maneuvering” in his court. George at first seems likable, albeit “warped by the ego inflation inherent in a king’s life” and still reeling from the loss of the American Colonies. His insane, erratic conduct, however, puts him at the mercy of power-hungry rivals and barbarically ignorant physicians. Bennett’s sensitive account of a troubled soul brims with “psychological complexities.” Yet here director Adrian Noble “seems merely intent on squeezing out laughs” from the supporting cast, diminishing this affecting drama to a “sort of 18th-century political cartoon.”

True, this production does not possess “the heft of the Bard,” said James Hebert in The San Diego Union-Tribune. Noble essentially treats it not as a bio-drama but as a biting satire of the conniving, fractious courtiers—here “expertly acted” by an ensemble that includes several students from the University of San Diego. Andrew Dahl turns the Prince of Wales into a hilariously “vapid fashion plate” who acts more like a spoiled toddler than heir to the throne, while a trio of darkly comic, bloodletting doctors (Bruce Turk, Joseph Marcell, and Adrian Sparks) are “too absurd for words.” What keeps the lighter elements grounded, however, is Miles Anderson’s “committed and commanding performance” as George III. Even as the king “descends into hysteria and despair,” he seems only a little more deranged than the world surrounding him.

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