SHAKESPEARE’S Richard III is a great study of evil. All the possible ways of explaining this phenomenon storm the pages of the play, adding new dimensions to one super-villain character, writes Stan Skarzynski.

Richard’s a poor, deformed creature who desperately seeks love, an intelligent trickster, a Machiavellian politician (yes, Brexit’s silently present there), a violent beast, an empathy-deprived mobster. All is there, all at the same time, devil’s hundred faces reflect in one human mirror.

The play is extremely difficult to be successfully staged. With Richard being the sole star and subject, there are no secondary figures capable of any serious weight-lifting, but yet breathing, real others are necessary to make his spree believable. The second issue is the play’s length. In 2019 an unabridged version would be rather a survival than enlightening theatrical experience, at least for most of the audience.

But abridging it is a tricky business: one cut too few, and Richard’s evil drowns in never-ending dialogues; one cut too many and he’s suddenly surrounded by two-dimensional characters, whose lack of life makes his evil deeds cartoonish.

READ MORE: Hero or monster? Richard III rides againREAD MORE: Gandalf star Ian McKellen boots playhouse funds by rattling bucket after show

Sadly, this is exactly what happened at the Oxford Playhouse. Tom Mothersdale’s performance as Richard is the only thing undoubtedly worth seeing there, mostly because of transforming Richard’s monologues into House-of-Cards-like, honest dialogues with the audience. They make Richard interesting, surprisingly likeable.

READ MORE: German Comedy Ambassador Henning Wehn has crowd clapping along to Hitler Youth tune

But when he’s not alone on the scene, things fall apart and Richard’s horrific deeds are moving in the same way as Jerry the mouse hitting Tom the cat with a baseball bat.

There are exceptions, as extremely challenging scene of Anne’s forgiveness, which is great under John Haidar’s direction and leads to a presumption that the show’s faults are most likely a result of underrehearsed pacing. Mothersdale is so interesting solo exactly because of his use of hesitation and grin, and so is Anne’s forgiveness understandable not because of her words, but because of her silence.

At its current form, the show is for serious Shakespeare fans. But further work can give it new life and this is exactly what I hope for. 3/5