Sir Peter Hall has been brightening Bath summers for eight seasons with outstanding presentations but nothing has surpassed this superb production which brought an enraptured audience to its feet as Handel’s music chorused “long live the king” at its triumphant finale.
Alan Bennett’s piercing royal and political satire deserved every ounce of its spontaneous acclamation as you winced at the pain and marvelled at the wit of director Christopher Luscombe’s stunning interpretation.
David Haig has long been admired for his quality and versatility but this must surely be his pinnacle performance. From his hearty “wot wots” and jolly beginnings to the deterioration into the anguish of the play’s title and his sparkling recovery, he takes your emotions on a wonderfully exhausting journey.
The monarch’s condition – porphyria – could easily be treated by modern medicines but in the late 18th century he was subjected to blistering, purging and manacled restraints by a series of court doctors.
The King was ably backed by an excellent supporting cast. Clive Francis twinkled as Dr Willis, the “Lincolnshire goat” who eventually bullied his patient into submission; Nicholas Rowe was suitably unsmiling as the “cold fish” William Pitt and Christopher Keegan fully filled the role of the “plump partridge” Prince of Wales. And the most touching moments were shared with Beatie Edney as Queen Charlotte, affectionately referred to by her husband as “Mrs King”.
Janet Bird’s set of moving, unpainted doors and wooden frames without pictures provided a subtle backdrop to the bright palace costumes and allowed the action and words to shine through.
The Madness Of George III runs until September 3 with tickets priced from £16.50 to £32.50. Telephone 01225 448844 for details. Or click here to book online.