SINCE the very first scene, there is something unlikely about Richard III staged at Blenheim Palace as part of its Shakespeare’s Rose season.

The troubling thing is that the main character here is not ugly at all.

Quite the opposite. Played by William Mannering, Gloucester is a rather amiable character.

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Wicked he is, indeed, but as a villain he proves to be more like the limping surgeon in the TV series House, which made Hugh Laurie a world star, than the Bard’s cruel character – the modern embodiment of which would be more like the cruel psychopath Joker portrayed by the late Heath Ledger in Batman The Dark Knight, or the Machiavellian US President Francis Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey in the House of Cards.

The Oxford Times:

Richard III is cunning, handsome and well-behaved. In effect one does not believe a word, when Richard declares himself to be “Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time into this breathing world scarce half made up”.

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And it is not really surprising that Lady Anne not only does not kill him, but actually gives him a kiss just after he admits that it was he who killed her husband.

But this oddly nice Gloucester, stripped of both his ugly nature and his infamous cruelty (his murders are merely symbolic), stresses something else: the fact that Gloucester’s rise to power is the effect of his enormous political talent and deep understanding of human nature.

Both these traits he seems to dramatically lose once he is crowned.

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In effect, Lucy Pitman-Wallace’s take on Shakespeare’s play turns out to be a study of modern day politics.

The Bard seems to be saying: it is one thing to take the power, but maintaining it is an altogether different story.

One might only hope, that Boris Johnson is aware of the message here.