The Madness of George III

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Poster for National Theatre production on tour

The Madness of George III is a 1991 play by Alan Bennett. It is a fictionalised biographical study of the latter half of the reign of George III of the United Kingdom, his battle with mental illness, and the inability of his court to handle his condition. It was adapted for film in 1994 as The Madness of King George.

Performance history[edit]

The play had its premiere on 28 November 1991 at the Lyttelton Theatre of the National Theatre in London. It was directed by Nicholas Hytner and designed by Mark Thompson. The play starred Nigel Hawthorne as George III, Janet Dale as Queen Charlotte and Michael Fitzgerald as the Prince of Wales, also starring Julian Wadham, Charles Kay, Adrian Scarborough, Mark Lockyer and David Henry.

After its London run, the production toured the UK and the United States, returned to the National Theatre in 1993 and was then presented in Athens and Israel in 1994. Hawthorne repeated the role in the 1994 film, earning a Best Actor nomination in the Academy Awards.

The play was staged at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in San Diego, California, from June 19 to September 24, 2010.[1]

On 18 January 2012, the play was revived at the Apollo Theatre. David Haig played George III.[2]

A further revival took place in November 2018, at Nottingham Playhouse, with Mark Gatiss as the lead.[3] This production was streamed on the National Theatre's YouTube channel in June 2020 as part of the NT at Home season.[4]


The play has been viewed as a character study for the actor who plays George III and most reviewers attribute its success to compelling performances from the two actors, Hawthorne and Haig, who played the king. Frank Rich of The New York Times singled out Nigel Hawthorne's performance in the US tour, calling it "astonishing" and "unforgettable", but he labelled the play itself as not "one of Bennett's major works" and as being more "marketable to Broadway and the colonies".[5] Writing about the 2012 revival, Lyn Gardner said that Luscombe's production reminds us that "Bennett is not writing a royal Downton Abbey, but a play exploring appearance and reality", and that the play brings out the fact that amidst all the royal pomp the king is merely a man like everybody else.[6] In The Telegraph, Charles Spencer praised Haig's performance, comparing it favorably to Hawthorne's performance twenty years earlier, saying "it seemed an impossible act to follow, but David Haig proves every inch Hawthorne’s equal in a performance of extraordinary emotion, tenderness and humour".[7]

Writing on the 2018 Nottingham Playhouse run, Kate Maltby, writing for The Guardian notes that "Scarborough and Gatiss are electric", praising Powell for her "endearing" portrayal of Queen Charlotte. She notes that "Gatiss delivers a tour de force" in this "viscerally repulsive depiction of the gap between public and private life." even despite his descent into a "slobbering wreck" as George III. Maltby notes overall that this production is a "technically excellent production of a modern classic." gaining it a 4 out of 5 rating.[8]


Original Cast (National Theatre, 1991)[edit]

Second London Run (Apollo Theatre, 2012)[edit]


Nottingham Playhouse Run (2018)[10][edit]


  1. ^ "The Old Globe Website". Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  2. ^ "Apollo Theatre, London - Official Box Office - Nimax Theatres".
  3. ^ "The Madness of George III". Nottingham Playhouse.
  4. ^ "National Theatre at Home: The Madness of George III". National Theatre. 26 May 2020. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  5. ^ Rich, Frank (17 September 1993). "Review/Theater: The Madness of George III; Creating a Lovable George III". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Gardner, Lyn (24 January 2012). "The Madness of George III – review". the Guardian.
  7. ^ Spencer, Charles (24 February 2018). "The Madness of George III, Apollo Theatre, review" – via
  8. ^ "Guardian review of 2018 production". 7 November 2018.
  9. ^ London[dead link]
  10. ^ "National Theatre 2018 Madness of George III Cast List" (PDF).