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BWW Review: THE HOLLOW CROWN - PART ONE, BritBox BWW will review the multi-award winning BBC Shakespearean series, The Hollow Crown, over the next three weeks, one episode per day, starting with Ben Whishaw's Richard II and finishing, 19 days later, with Benedict Cumberbatch's Richard III.

King Richard II, all tousled locks beneath a golden crown, fails to mediate a dispute between a seething Henry Bolingbroke and a belligerent Thomas Mowbray, and we're off to the jousting lists for trail by combat. As sword is about to be swung, Richard intervenes, banishing Bolingbroke for ten years (no, six because his father looked sad) and Mowbray for life - nobody knows why.

Soon, after a bit of doe-eyed flirting with his pretty boy entourage, Richard is off to war in Ireland, casually seizing Bolingbroke's inheritance and taxing the nobility to pay for his adventure. Alienating one's court and then vacating the seat looks unwise, all the more so when Bolingbroke returns, kisses the shores of his homeland and musters the grizzled old warriors to take on the medieval forebears of One Direction.

It's all very Game of Thronesy, (George RR Martin had certainly read his Shakey) and the production values lose nothing in comparison with HBO's blockbuster. Rupert Goold directs this episode with a sure hand, dialling up the testosterone to 11 when required and getting plenty of English soil under his fingernails.

Whishaw, once you stop looking at that hair, has a touch of John Hurt's Caligula in his mercurial rule and his arrogant wilfulness, while Rory Kinnear broods under his armour with bearded menaces. Rather a shame to lose James Purefoy's Mowbray so early, because he was ready to take on the whole lot of them.

Sir Patrick Stewart steals the show as John of Gaunt, when, after a few obligatory Shakespearean puns on his name and dying condition, he lets Richard have it with both barrels, the old man doused in feverish sweat, rheumy of eye, but clear in thought. Few tyrants go unpunished in the canon, but this is as fine an evisceration as any, delivered with unabashed relish.

The Hollow Crown is available for streaming on BritBox

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