Yale faculty and students will present a staged reading of “The Madness of King George III,” Alan Bennett’s play about the British monarch who ruled during the time of the American Revolution, on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at the Yale Center for British Art, corner of High and Chapel streets.
The event, which is free and open to the public, is the 20th annual Faculty Staged Reading. Murray Biggs of the Theater Studies Program will direct the play, which he also edited for this production.
According to Biggs, “The Madness of King George” (1990) was chosen to complement the exhibition, “Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World,” now on view at the Yale Center for British Art. One of the women highlighted in the exhibit is Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818), who was married to George III.
“Bennett’s overriding aim is to create a portrait of royal and parliamentary life in Britain some time after the American War of Independence and as France moves toward its own revolution,” writes Biggs in the director’s notes for the play. “The middle-aged king in the play has been on the throne for nearly 30 years and married for almost as long, and only his dubious mental health has any chance of unseating him.” It was a time, Biggs notes, when “sovereigns really could and did make seriously influential political appointments that would be unthinkable now.”
As originally written, Bennett’s play has 27 speaking characters, which Biggs has condensed to eight roles: King George III (David Quint); The Prince of Wales, his son and heir (Brian Earp); Queen Charlotte (Catherine Sheehy); William Pitt, prime minister (Lawrence Manley); Charles James Fox, leader of the opposition (John Rogers); Lord Thurlow, lord chancellor (John Peters); Fitzroy, equerry to the court (Brandon Levin); and Willis, a farmer, doctor, and divine (Thomas Cooley).
Quint, Manley, Rogers, and Peters are professors in the English Department; Sheehy chairs the Department of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama; Earp is a graduate student in philosophy and psychology; and Levin is a student at the Yale Law School. (Earp and Levin are also graduates of Yale College.) Cooley is an international opera and concert singer.
The performance will last about an hour without intermission.