The Madness of George III opens in Huntingdon this week
- Credit: Archant
The Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon will play host to the Huntingdon Drama Club’s spring production, The Madness of George III, this week; a fictional, biographical account of the king’s battle with mental illness.
Written by Alan Bennett in 1991, the play has enjoyed much success, including onscreen, and the club’s production will feature more than 20 cast members, even tailor-made costumes.
“I love directing and doing plays based on true stories,” said Dean Laccohee, who is not only the group’s artistic director, but also plays King George.
“I think if you’re interested in that it’s great to see it, but also if you know nothing about it you learn something about a new subject. I like the fact that it’s based in a reality. These things actually happened.”
Dean, who has previously worked as an actor, spent months researching the history behind the play.
George III, who reigned for nearly 60 years, experienced heavy bouts of poor mental health from the 1780s, and doctors put his condition down to a genetic blood disorder called porphyria.
“That’s been the most common theory, but more recently doctors, or historians, have suggested that he might have had bi-polar disorder or manic depression, and the physical symptoms were a result of the treatments that the doctors of the time were giving him,” Dean explained.
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“They used bleeding, leeches, blister cups, it was torture really, to try and cure him.”
To help the cast understand the world of George III, the group has even been to visit one of his residences at Kew Palace.
Although the play offers a historical dimension, it’s also full of humour.
“It’s very funny,” Dean said.
“The script is by Alan Bennett who has a very witty, very English style of writing in comedy. Some of it’s hilarious. Even bits where he’s losing his marbles are quite funny.”
“The part of the king is written in such a way that he’s very eccentric. He loved farming, he loved agriculture. He wasn’t too keen on the formalities of the period and he wasn’t an extravagant or a flamboyant character. He was quite down to earth.”
Completing the show, which is directed by Mark Hebert, is a collection of elaborate period costumes, each one tailor-made.
“We’ve been so lucky. All the costumes are tailor-made from scratch,” Dean said.
“They’ve never been seen or used before. They’re all exclusively made for this production and the level of detail in them is incredible, but they’re also exactly right for the period. They’re going to be a big talking point I think.”
Shows will run from April 21 to 24 with tickets costing £10 or £8 for concessions. To book, call 0333 666 3366 or visit huntingdondramaclub.org.uk