The Madness of George III was first performed at the Royal National Theatre, Lyttelton Theatre, 28 November 1991, directed by Nicholas Hytner. Hytner also directed the film version, The Madness of King George, released 1995. Its roots lie in one of the oldest rituals in the world: a king disempowered, effectively dethroned, and conducted to hell (or, in some versions, killed), then returned to health and sanity (or, in some versions, resurrected). It is extraordinarily powerful, and has remained so for millennia. The Madness of George III is seldom discussed in these terms, partly because the mythic elements are so well camouflaged. Bennett’s play is meticulously respectful of historical detail, and incorporates many of the words actually spoken, or written, by its characters.1 And it is, to a large extent, preoccupied with the political consequences of the King’s indisposition. Everything about it, in fact, directs us towards its context, painstakingly established both through the twists and turns of the plotting, and Nicholas Hytner’s evocative production.
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