Shakespeare’s play works well, even when it has been transposed into the 1930s. Ian McKellen plays the title role, as the deformed Duke of Gloster, who schemes, plots, and murders his way into the title of King Richard III. First, he claims the wife of his brother, the dead king. Then, he proceeds to assassinate his nephews and brothers in order to claim the throne. The setting for this drama has been moved up to the 1930s, with fascist overtones, automobiles, radio, and machine guns. However, the dialogue is still faithful to the Bard, albeit truncated, running a mere hour and 45 minutes. It is amazing how well the play transitions to the 20th century, without seeming awkward or overly anachronistic. McKellen gives a wickedly villianous performance as the hunchbacked dictator/king. He is backed by a strong cast, including Annette Bening as Queen Elizabeth, Robert Downey Jr. as Earl Rivers, Maggie Smith as the Duchess of York, Jim Broadbent as the Duke of Buckingham and Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Anne. The production moves briskly, but manages to touch upon the major speeches and soliloquiess of the play. It also more readily depicts the sex and violence that was hinted at in Shakespeare’s work. Overall, this version of Richard III is an entrancing interpretation.
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