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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