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Connections: A Little Madness in the Spring…

Today’s post comes from Emily MacLeod, class of 2012 and Art Center student docent.

If you attended our screening of the uproarious Black Adder series last week, which followed the exploits of the bumbling Prince Regent, you will be in for a surprise when a completely different side of the story is unveiled in The Madness of King George. Released in 1994, this stage-to-screen adaptation done by the terrific Alan Bennett (well-known to audiences as playwright of The History Boys) turns our attention to the man behind the “madness,” the monarch George III, the one who lost the American colonies and subsequently lost his mind. Diagnosed today as having porphyria, a rare, genetic blood disease, George suffered from fits of delirium, convulsions and physical ailments, a condition that to all observers clearly made him unfit to rule. The Prince becomes Regent, and the King is sent away to “recuperate,” where he suffers cruelty at the hands of doctors whose crude medical practices do nothing to help him regain his sanity. George becomes Lear, a “foolish, fond old man,” struggling to reclaim his right to the throne when all, including his own mind, are against him.

Many historical figures who we have seen before in Rowlandson’s work are key players in this narrative, characters like William Pitt, Charles Fox and the Prince Regent. Queen Charlotte, George’s devoted wife and mother of his fifteen children, is played by the heartbreaking Helen Mirren (The Queen). She was Oscar-nominated for this role, as was Nigel Hawthorne, whose performance opposite her as King George was universally hailed as flawless, engaging and magnificent. Director Nicholas Hytner assembles a top-notch cast of British actors to tell this tragic but uplifting story, including Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings) and Rupert Everett (The Importance of Being Earnest). The relationship between Holm as Dr. Willis, the physician called in to save the king from his distress, and King George serves as a dramatic (but sadistic) parallel to his descendant George VI and Dr. Logue in the recent Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech.

The Madness of King George is a masterful film, with beautiful cinematography, screenwriting and performances. No longer is George III simply written off as “the mad King,” but his story is told with sympathy and great heart. Join us tonight for a screening at 5:30PM in Taylor 203.

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