When Alan Bennett's 1991 play The Madness of George III was turned into a film starring Nigel Hawthorne as the long-serving Hanoverian monarch, to avoid confusing dim-witted audiences, the title was changed to 'The Madness of King George', thus preventing it being written off as a low-rent second sequel to a film no one had heard of. Or, so the story goes.
The titled notion of George's madness, most likely brought on by a blood disorder, grabbed the initial headlines. Hollywood loves a scandalised monarch and the 1994 film picked up an Oscar for art direction and two nominations for leading roles for actors Hawthorne and Helen Mirren.
Behind the headline was the story of a monarch who lived until he was 81, reigning for nearly sixty years during a time of great political and cultural change. The American War of Independence and the French Revolution, two of the greatest moments in human history, took place on George's watch. He even gave his name to a design movement synonymous with slender rectilinear elegance, familiar today to viewers of Grand Designs as 'those lovely windows'.
Set alongside this was the sub-plot of a wrestle for power with his son, the Prince of Wales, who ruled (as the Prince Regent) when his father became too ill to do so, and ultimately as the comparatively short-lived King George IV. Put this potent mix of historical drama and political change in the hands of a great playwright and you have yourself a hit.
The success of Bennett's 'The Madness of George III' continues today with a new production, directed by Christopher Luscombe and starring David Haig, which made its debut in Bath this summer.
After runs in Richmond and Nottingham, 'The Madness of King George' takes in more tour dates including Cambridge, Chichester, Milton Keynes and Canterbury before a short, high-profile residency at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue from 18th January to 31st March 2012.
We have tickets available now priced from £25 for London and beginning at £17 for other dates.