‘The Madness Of George III’ at Sierra Cinemas | TheUnion.com

‘The Madness Of George III’ at Sierra Cinemas

Sandra Rockman
Special to Prospector

Sandra Rockman suggests everyone see "The Madness of George III," mainly for the performance of Mark Gatiss who plays the Mad King George III.

History buffs and theater lovers alike will relish the latest National Theatre Live's offering of the award-winning drama, "The Madness of George III," which aired at Sierra Cinemas this past week.

The production was presented by the Nottingham Playhouse, written by Alan Bennett and directed by Adam Penford, both of whom are interviewed in a thought-provoking video before the play begins. A matinee showing at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, will be your last chance to see this marvelous production.

It's 1786, and, despite having lost America to the colonists, King George III is still the most powerful man in the world. But his behavior is becoming increasingly erratic as he succumbs to fits of lunacy. With the King's mind unravelling at a dramatic pace, ambitious politicians and his scheming son, the Prince of Wales, threaten to undermine the power of the Crown.

For the history buffs, Bennett sets his play not over the full course of George III's reign — which did descend into royal incapacity and a profligate son's regency — but in The Regency Crisis of 1788-89, during the king's first, limited bout of illness.

That's the compelling story, but, for this reviewer, it was the acting that left me agog.

I'd only ever seen Mark Gatiss as Sherlock's (Benedict Cumberbatch) nefarious brother, Mycroft.

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Gatiss is truly amazing to watch. Don't miss noticing his foot when he is raving, his big toe expressing his contorted mind. It is evidence of the totally embodied actor, his characterization being completely "grounded" — right down into his foot and onto the stage.

He's masterful! And charming, and funny and absolutely compelling.

The rest of the cast is equally engaged. Adrian Scarborough might be recognized from the last series of Upstairs Downstairs. He plays Doctor Willis who, unlike the orthodox doctors who tried and failed to cure the king's nervous breakdown, uses maverick methods and is impervious to the structure of the accepted social status: this king must learn to accept the absolute authority of another human being.

Debra Gillett plays Queen Charlotte whose love for the King is palpable.

Wilf Scolding was a perfect choice for the treacherously conniving Prince of Wales.

Here I also must mention the gender-blind and double-casting of women as the king's staff, consorts and physicians. While the acting edition of the script calls for 22 men and six females, this savvy production (10 men/seven women) was actually enhanced by the many skillful female actors in roles that required authority, humor and gravitas.

With Brexit looming and some politicians around the world acting quite madly, this Bennett revival is appropriately well-timed. The last showing at Sierra Cinemas is at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5 (with a running time of under three hours).

For more information, visit http://www.sierratheaters.com.

Sandra Rockman is a local theatre artist. She teaches acting, improvisation and playwriting classes in our community. For more information, email her at sandrarockman@outlook.com or call 530-265-6514.

KNOW & GO

WHO: Sierra Cinemas presents

WHAT: National Theatre Live: “The Madness of George III”

WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Sierra Cinemas, E. Main Street, Grass Valley

TICKETS: $18 Adults, $15 Seniors, Children 12 and under & students with ID; Available online at http://www.sierratheaters.com or at the Sierra Cinemas Box Office

INFO: Visit http://www.sierratheaters.com, or call 530-477-9000 for more information

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