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Othello: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

November 21, 2018

(seen at the afternoon performance on 22nd September 2018)

The steady downpour throughout the afternoon helped considerably the melancholy final bedroom scenes in particular, in this somewhat frenetic Claire van Kampen directed production.

Othello is easily my favourite Shakespeare play, and for me, few since have lived up to the growling McKellen Iago and pleading Stubbs Desdemona of the Trevor Nunn Young Vic / RSC production.

This time, Mark Rylance makes an amiable liar – taunting the audience and insouciant (with musical instrument at one point) to the end. Oddly delivering his key “Good Name” speech with back turned to most of the house, he at least manages a less boastful “Money In Purse” than most, finding a lightness that is rather interestingly suggests a more opportunist and reactive Iago than many I have seen.

Jessica Warbeck takes time to settle as Desdemona, early scenes lacking passionate commitment. Yet later with both Emilia (attractive quiet solicitude from Sheila Atim) and husband Othello (Andrew Holland) her character takes on a dignity and humility that suddenly makes sense of her earlier dramatic choices.

In the title role, Holland chooses not to dominate, but build steadily, his errors multiplying and both anger and anguish foregone conclusions almost from the start of the second half.

Other notable performances include a fruity Bianca from Catherine Bailey. As Cassio, Aaron Pierre rather matches her playing – lucky he was able to keep up, as it were…

Steffan Donnelly and Wiliam Chubb do decent service as Roderigo and Brabantio respetively, with Chubb’s outfit one of the better costumes designed from Jonathan Fensom.

The fairly severe editing of the script could arguably veer towards the shorter of the two known versions and thus may be more authentic, but it did lack depth as we failed to really experience the pleasure of knowing the machinations behind the actions as Iago’s mind is set to work.

Indeed, reading this opinion back, it could explain why he read as “reactive” in this production. For future reference, that doesn’t help with dramatic tension across the arc of the play for this viewer, though it does allow less commitment to concentration for the whole event, of course.

Balanced and veering from engrossing to slightly dull, a more than decent introduction for many to this particular work, is the verdict.


3 stars.

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