We went to see a broadcast of National Theatre Live’s production of The Madness of King George III yesterday at our local cinema. I love how small and accessible the world can see sometimes. This is a play that I’d not heard of but one whose title intrigued me. Well, in fact, I kind of hated it. One of the reasons is the, much lauded by the non-disabled press, performance of the lead in the role of King George. He played madness as if it were kind of a frenzied cerebral palsy. It was an insult to both people who struggle with mental health and people with disabilities. It was over the top awful.

It was also, kinda, boring. The one dimensional king was hard to relate to, hard to feel for, hard to take as fully human. So without him it was like The Madness of Someone Not Very Interesting.

But.

I’m glad I went.

Because there was a line of dialogue that came during a scene where a doctor had come in to consult on the king and his behaviour. The doctor talked about the stressors that come with the royal role. He said something that slammed against the back of my mind and pinballed around all sides. It left me momentarily intellectually reeling. I love it when that happens.

I wasn’t much engaged in the play so I had time to think on it. Now this is probably a really poor paraphrase of that dialogue:

The mind and heart cannot flourish fed a steady diet of compliance.

!!

I say again.

!!!

That is big stuff right there. It’s not just a quote but a mental meal. See then he went on to say that people need other people to stand up to them, to disagree with them, to put them in their place, but those whose roles prevent that from happening end up with a mind that languishes.

Holy Shit!

Look at what we’ve done.

By training, programming, and otherwise beating non-compliance out of people with intellectual disabilities we have denied their freedom and damned our own growth.

We’ve done damage all round.

In the face of constant compliance we learn only that we are right all the time, that we are good all the time, that our actions don’t hurt even some of the time.

Our minds and hearts grow lazy.

And lazy minds plus lazy hearts are the one’s that lead us to cruelty, and a feeling of our own rightness to rule over the lives of others.

The mind and heart cannot flourish fed a steady diet of compliance.

I’m glad I went to the play, I’m glad that I was feeling bored of the performance, because it allowed me to both hear the dialogue in such a way that I could feel it sink into my soul a little bit.

That’s what art, even art you don’t like, does.

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