The Apple Cart

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The Apple Cart
George Bernard Shaw 1934-12-06.jpg
Written by George Bernard Shaw
Date premiered 14 June, 1929, February 1928
Place premiered Polsky Teatr, Warsaw
Original language English
Subject A British king defends his role in government
Genre Satire

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



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[4] and subsequently rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Notes and references

  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. ^

External links

  • The Apple Cart at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Full text of the play, including a preface and articles relating to the play.
  • The Apple Cart on
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