For king and country
A first-time director, an unknown lead, a remote period of British history — yet The Madness 0f King George has been a remarkable hit in America. Writer Alan Bennett tells Alan Morrison how his acclaimed stage play became a box ofﬁce success.
He may have reached the age of 60 last year. but The Madness Of King George: ‘3 great British movie in its own right
there‘s no Sign of Alan Bennett slipping into Mm/nw-S ()f‘ng (Ran-m, betrays jmlc‘ if unv‘ of its I would cause the instability of the entire country; retirement slippers and taking up permanent . stage origins. A range of locations. several outdoor hence the political machinations of the government‘s
residence by the ﬁreplace, Already widely acclaimed scenes. cuts to and from simultaneous events. large for his Stage and mew-“lo” W0fk~ Bennett has begun crowd scenes and performances that are perfectly 1995 by Stamping his 1mummy 0"“) "19 WOI'ldS 0f pitched to the closeness of a camera lens also literature and cinema as well. His diaries from contribute to the sense that this is a great British film 1980—1990. published under the title Writing Home. in its own right. not a second-hand project weighed
opposition and the selfish scheming of the Prince of Wales. who has been consigned to the sidelines as he waits and waits to take over the throne. Today it is reckoned that the King was not mad per se. but suffering from perphyria. a disease that affects the
rode high in the bestseller lists over Christmas and down by momriculiw Witness [he strikingly visual nervous system.
recently won him the Booksellers Association Author shot of [he demented King Charging up a Wide spiral Bennett uses the historical events to examine
Of The Year award. He also found himself caught in sulifcagc while an sons of disconnect“ [huughtg notions ofcontrol on various levels — royalty over the Oscar spotlight for his screenplay for The whirl around his head. T i sycophantic social climbers. a father over his son. a
Madness OfKing George. which he adapted from his own stageplay. The Madness 0f George III (and. yes. it's true - the title was changed because surveys showed that American audiences would avoid the film ifthey thought they hadn‘t already seen its ‘prequels' The Madness 0f George and The Madness 0f George II).
prime minister over parliament. a husband over his marriage. a doctor over his patient. a man over his human dignity. The film's themes are intelligently handled by the writer. but there is an emotional core too. founded in a magnificent performance by Nigel Hawthorne. here rcprising the role that lasted for several seasons at the Royal National Theatre and
Bennett. of course. is no stranger to film. His l enjoyed a UK tour. original screenplay. A Private Function. was a very Already one of the most talked-about aspects of the English comedy about a 1940s Yorkshire | film is its topicality on the subject of royal scandals: community‘s attempts to rear a pig for a banquet | ‘When i was doing the screenplay. l was aware of despite rationing restrictions. while Prick Up Your j that. and aware that you could strike resonances. The Ears expertly adapted John Lahr's biography of I topicalities on the stage were political topicalities PlayVl/l’lght 10¢ 01mm landing Gary Oldmim With 11" l more than to do with monarchy. although the thing early attention-grabbing role. which I think is absolutely true is the speech where
As a writer (and performer). Bennett came to the Prince of Wales says. “To be Prince of Wales is prominence at the [960 Edinburgh Festival alongside not a position . . . it‘s a predicament". Everyone Jonathan Miller. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in s - - - knows that ou're waitin 7 to take over and this their now 18 , . , ,. . .. .. - The topicalities on the stage were Y . . .s - .
gendary Beyond The I ringe. The icvue s . . . . . makes you a slightly ridiculous figure.
satirical edge was later ‘0 be found in many Of his . pallt'cal toplcalltles more than to ' Giveiithat Rupert Everett's turn as the Prince playsrparticularly in regard to ClilSS leidCS Ol’ Slight frequently falls in“) an obvious impersonation of a variations on character stereotypes. while works like cenain Charles‘s facial and speech mannerisms. it‘s The Old Country and Kafka '3 Dick showed more Bennett himself is well aware that the move from Clear which contemporary parallels are being evoked, serious or literate concerns. His television plays An Stage ‘0 SCWC” C11“ “1ch its COIllemlSCSI ‘l‘m Bennett's approach to a prince’s impatience is more Englishman Ahmad and A Que-"1'0" Of/lffrfbll’lml always '03th [0 1050 NRC-‘3 but mm has gm ‘0 b0 thoughtful and sympathetic than. say. the recently brought him a wide audience. but on the small screen more geared to the story. You can‘t hang about with luid-to-l'cs‘t Spitting Image. but perhaps he was being it is probably his series of monologues. Talking it. and you do ﬁnd the more you Cut. the more you mindful that he too has suffered a latex incamaiion — Heads. that is best known. reap benefits. Historically. I think it‘s all accurate. [weed jacket, childhood Leeds accent still intact, a
Talking Heads showed Bennett to be a writer who The whole illness is very well documented — two or politely avuncular figure always. for some strange was well skilled at adapting the strengths of one three people wrote memoirs about it — but. obviously. reason. in the presence of Thom Hird. ‘Prince medium to another. Despite the difficulties of the it‘s selective and you can't put it all in.‘ Charles came to see the play and liked it very monologue as a format, he capitalised on the The film covers the period 1788-89. when George much . , . I‘m quite a loyalist. really.’ the real Bennett intimacy ofthe television medium — drawing the III has slipped from regal eccentricities into what the says shyly. Leeds accent intact. brushing the sleeves audience to the speaker's point of view — while court fears is genuine insanity. It is. of course. not of his tweed jacket. Only Thora's nowhere in sight. questioning and punctuating with subtle camera just his personal health that is the worry — so The Madness ()j'King George opens in Scotland on shifts and edits. Likewise. his screenplay for The powerful was the British monarch that serious illness Friday 3/ March.
The List 24 Mar-6 Apr 1995 19