Stage & Screen

The Madness of King George III

The Madness of King George III

Tom McCamus as George III and Patrick McManus as Dr Willis in The Madness of George III.

Slider Image: Tom McCamus as George III, Chick Reid as Queen Charlotte and Rebecca Gibian as Greville in The Madness of George III

Photo’s by David Cooper

King George III is acting strange – he is itching himself crazy, has agonizing stomach pains, his urine is turning purple and he is going mad and no one knows why?  It’s the late 1700’s and the medical community has no knowledge how to deal with all his symptoms, let alone cure him.  Parliament is in an uproar and the throne may be up for grabs.  In a vain attempt to find out what’s wrong the finest doctors in the land follow with a course of cures that would drive anyone well, mad: cupping, bleeding and basically torturing the pour Monarch in a clear case of the cure being much worse than the disease.

The Madness of King George III showing at the Royal George in Niagara-on-the-Lake starts out as a delightful and somewhat humorous play.  When you arrive at the theatre King George is on stage quipping with the audience, a cell phone rings and the actor is looking all over the place to see who has failed to turn off their phone!   Aha, it is his phone, and he runs off stage to answer it.  Quickly, the members of the audience check to see if their phones are turned off - one of the many subtle changes brought by new Artistic Director Tim Carroll.

The set designed by Ken McDonald is simple but stately, it is the Royal Court with a twist.  The courtiers sitting in the gallery are actual audience members.  This makes for some interesting action later in the play as the actors interact with them making for some true comedic moments with unscripted reactions.

As the story develops, the lightness diminishes and the play takes on a more serious tone, actually disturbing, once you remember, it is based on a true story.

Tom McCamus puts in an absolutely brilliant performance as King George.  He is a great king and even a greater mad king.  A seasoned actor at Stratford, McCamus is returning to the Shaw after a 29 year absence.  Joining him on stage is his real life wife Chick Reid as Queen Charlotte. The ensemble cast plays a host of characters, most of the costume changes happen on stage, which is interesting for about 5 minutes and then just totally adds to the madness and confusion, perhaps not unintentional.

Since it is responsible for a number of laughs some kudo’s to the props department for making the most realistic “stool” that is shared with the audience in more than one scene!  Ewe!

Quite simply The Madness of King George III on stage at the Royal George in Niagara-on-the-Lake is sheer madness.  You should go!

King George is playing til October 15th, for ticket information and to see how you can be “on stage” with the cast visit

By Jenifer Cass