Our daily news is filled with political posturing, of leaders taking a stand before artfully changing tack, and Sir Trevor Nunn's staging of King John at the Rose is a timely reminder that 'Twas ever thus and will be'.

In one sense this is a biopic but it is also a Shakespearean The Thick of It as King John endeavours to keep grasp of his precarious grip on the crown through political manoeuvring, as those around him - the French, Rome, his hangers-on and even family - are most loyal to whichever side most benefits them.

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Tightly directed by Nunn with an impressive cast, every last drop of drama, humour and irony is wrought for maximum potency.

Leading the cast as the insecure King, Jamie Ballard delightfully exhibits the full range from Pope-defying grandstanding speeches to a snivelling self-pitying death via principle-ditching and scheming where you can almost see the cogs whirring.

Howard Charles bristles with energy and charisma as the sharp-witted Philip the Bastard while Maggie Steed is a perfectly domineering mother as Queen Elinor.

Similarly stand-out, Lisa Dillon is passionate and formidable as Constance, the mother who is 'as fond as grief as of [her] child'.

Special mention should also go to Sebastian Croft as young Arthur who sparkles in his demanding scenes.

Not that this King John is faultless. At three and a bit hours, it is overlong and does not contain enough within it to keep the fidgeting at bay.

While the plot moves forward in the second half, the first's winding deal-making is more memorable and the ending lacks power while also stretching on for far too long.

Sir Trevor Nunn has nothing to prove as a director, especially of Shakespeare, and could have easily justified putting on this rarity just because it takes him to within one of completing the full set of directing all 37 of Shakespeare's accepted 37 plays.

But, 400 years after the Board's death, his version of King John is pleasingly relevant - a reminder how ahead of his time the playwright was and that though the clothes and language may change, human nature does not.

King John is at the Rose Theatre until June 5. Go to rosetheatrekingston.org.uk

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