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BWW Review: THE HOLLOW CROWN - PART THREE, BritBoxBWW 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.

Henry, consumed by guilt is being ruthlessly played by Richard, the Crown in his hands and out of them, tossed on the floor to be rescued by his uncle. Welling up, his anxiety over his usurping a King he not only cannot bring himself to hate, but can barely foreswear to love, pulls him hither and thither. Richard knows the game is up, but he'll have one last dance.

Rory Kinnear, brimming equally with testosterone and unease, is excellent in his clipped dialogue, his eyes staring into the distance for an emotional release that does not come, his lords staring at their feet. Ben Whishaw topples a little into affectation - excusably so, since affectation is the default mode of Richard II - but he cuts a tragic figure in his stone dungeon.

Having steered 100 minutes with a sure hand, Rupert Goold's direction intervenes obtrusively between the acting and the text for the first time, Richard's Christ and St Sebastian imagery laid on with a trowel. It's okay - we get it.

That said, Goold's control of sound is masterful (h/t to Jamie Roden's team). It always takes at least ten minutes or so to attune one's ear to the rhythms and lexicon of Shakespearean English and, even in renowned houses, that can take a lot longer when one is straining to hear each word clearly. No such problem here. Better still, Henry's isolation in particular, is heard as much as seen, as his speech echoes in these vast regal spaces of cold stone. Some might say it should always be so on stage or screen - but we all know it is not.

Henry starts his kingship seeking absolution through a visit to Jerusalem. Monarchs leaving England's shores are seldom a good portent in Shakespeare.

The Hollow Crown is available for streaming on BritBox

Previous episode reviews are available here.

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From This Author Gary Naylor