The Apple Cart

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The Apple Cart: A Political Extravaganza
Written byGeorge Bernard Shaw
Date premiered14 June 1929, February 1928
Place premieredPolsky Teatr, Warsaw
Original languageEnglish
SubjectA British king defends his role in government

The Apple Cart: A Political Extravaganza is a 1928 play by George Bernard Shaw. It is a satirical comedy about several political philosophies which are expounded by the characters, often in lengthy monologues. The plot follows the fictional English King Magnus as he spars with, and ultimately outwits, Prime Minister Proteus and his cabinet, who seek to strip the monarchy of its remaining political influence. Magnus opposes the corporation "Breakages, Limited", which controls politicians and impedes technical progress.

Shaw's preface describes the play as:

...a comedy in which a King defeats an attempt by his popularly elected Prime Minister to deprive him of the right to influence public opinion through the press and the platform: in short, to reduce him to a cipher. The King's reply is that rather than be a cipher he will abandon his throne and take his obviously very rosy chance of becoming a popularly elected Prime Minister himself.[1]

The play was completed in December 1928 and first performed in Warsaw (in Polish) the following June. Its English première was at the first Malvern Drama Festival in August 1929.[2]

Shaw based King Magnus largely on himself. He modelled the enigmatic and pivotal character Orinthia, the King's mistress, on Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the actress who had created the role of Eliza Doolittle in Shaw's Pygmalion.[3] The "Powermistress-General" is said by the biographers of Beatrice Webb to be modelled on Susan Lawrence, an old colleague of Shaw from the Fabian Society.


  • Sempronius The King's Private Secretary
  • Pamphilius The King's Private Secretary
  • Billy Boanerges President of the Board of Trade
  • King Magnus
  • Orinthia King's Mistress
  • Alice Princess Royal
  • Joe Proteus Prime Minister
  • Pliny Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • Nicobar Foreign Secretary
  • Crassus Colonial Secretary
  • Balbus Home Secretary
  • Amanda Postelthwaite Postmistress General
  • Lysistrata Powermistress General
  • Vanhattan American Ambassador
  • Queen Jemima


  • There was a Coronation Year Production in 1953. It went on tour and starred Noël Coward as Magnus and Margaret Leighton as Orinthia. It was particularly memorable for Coward's performance. He could stand absolutely still and absolutely silent and still keep every eye in the audience on him. 1965 production directed by Peter Dews starring Marius Goring as King Magnus and Barbara Murray as Orinthia staged at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, the Opera House, Manchester, the New Wimbledon Theatre, Theatre Royal, Brighton and the Golders Green Hippodrome.
  • 1985-1986 production directed by Val May starring Peter O'Toole as King Magnus, Susannah York as Orinthia and Marius Goring as Nicobar at the Theatre Royal, Bath and the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
  • 2012 production in Slezské divadlo, Opava, the Czech Republic. Translated by Alžběta Matoušková. Directed by Roman Groszman. The play premiered on 11 November 2012 with Michal Stalmach (King Magnus), Drahomír Ožana (Joe Proteus), Pavel Rohan (Billy Boanerges), Kostas Zerdaloglu (Balbus), Martin Táborský (Plinius), Emanuel Křenek (Nicobar), Ivana Lebedová (Lysistrata), Hana Vaňková (Amanda Postelthwaite), Sabina Muchová (Queen Jemima), Šárka Vykydalová or Tereza Starostková (Orinthia), Jakub Stránský (Pamphilius), Daniel Volný (Sempronius), Ludmila Štědrá (Vanhattan), Tereza Diatilová or Anežka Bindrová (Alice).


The Apple Cart was presented as part of the BBC Television's Play of the Month series in 1975. Nigel Davenport starred as King Magnus and Helen Mirren as Orinthia. It is included in the Helen Mirren at the BBC DVD box set.

A BBC Radio production of The Apple Cart was adapted for radio and directed by Ian Cotteril and starred Peter Barkworth as King Magnus, Prunella Scales as Orinthia, Nigel Stock as Proteus, Sonia Fraser as Queen Jemima and Elizabeth Spriggs as Lysistrata and subsequently rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra.[4]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Shaw, George Bernard. The Apple Cart: A Political Extravaganza.
  2. ^ Garrard, Rose (2010). A Malvern Treasury. Garrard Art Publications. p. 147. ISBN 978-1-905795-56-7.
  3. ^ Peter Hall Company 2009 Programme - Shaw's The Apple Cart by Robert Warren.
  4. ^ George Bernard Shaw, Bernard Shaw's THE APPLE CART: A Political Extravaganza, retrieved 21 July 2021

External links[edit]