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Ralph Fiennes: Michael Gove has similarities with Richard III


Ralph Fiennes currently plays Richard III at the Almeida Theatre

Ralph Fiennes currently plays Richard III at the Almeida Theatre

Ralph Fiennes currently plays Richard III at the Almeida Theatre

One-time Conservative leadership candidate Michael Gove bears similarities with Shakespeare's scheming Richard III, actor Ralph Fiennes has said.

Fiennes stars in Shakespeare's history play at the Almeida Theatre, where he plays the villainous Richard III who manoeuvres his way to the crown despite saying he has no interest in ruling.

Asked which political figure is most like Richard, Fiennes said: "Michael Gove is closest because all those protestations about not being fit, 'I could never lead, it's not in my DNA to lead' - it's classic Richard."

But he insisted his version of the character was not exactly a Gove or a Boris Johnson: "It's my Richard."

Artistic director of the Almeida Theatre Rupert Goold said: "No one expects it to be Richard, so in that sense he is more Michael Gove.

"But clearly we still, as in Shakespeare's time, live in a period of big beasts."

Fiennes, 53, said the period of post-Brexit political uncertainty and division had given the production added pertinence and changed the audience's reaction.

He said: "I think in most Shakespeare plays that deal with power, whether they're the history plays or the Roman plays, you can always probably, broadly speaking, find a parallel somewhere in the world to what's going on, but it's quite rare that you actually are close to a political crisis, political uncertainty.

"And of course we went into this not knowing what the referendum result was going to be, and so when it was as divisive as it was and we saw all these political players making a play for leadership - Boris Johnson, Michael Gove - that was immediately, the audience suddenly, it changed. Not through our doing but just through events that were happening around.

"And suddenly it became full of a pertinence that perhaps it hadn't had before."

Goold added: "That was one of the things this summer, I really felt, when you have instability, hysteria sets in and also events move incredibly quickly - and that's how Richard works."

The play opened in June, shortly before the EU referendum.

On July 21, it will be broadcast live in cinemas around the world.

Fiennes said he hoped the live screening would preserve the "intimacy" of the performance.

Watching the live broadcast could be like watching Glastonbury Festival on television, Goold said.

He explained: "It reminds me a bit of Glastonbury - which most of us watch on TV now anyway. So you're aware of the audience and the excitement of the crowd, but you're closer than the crowd are."