Othello – July 2007

3/10

By: William Shakespeare

Directed by: Wilson Milam

Venue: Shakespeare’s Globe

Date: Tuesday 17th july 2007

At least this was the actual play that we ascribe to Shakespeare! On that score, it was a huge improvement on the Complete Works version. The problems here were mainly lack of clarity and projection, coupled with a staging that led to the majority of the important bits being spoken while the actors involved had their backs to us. I found I could only make out about a third of the lines – and that’s being generous. However, there were quite a few good points to praise.

One of the best was the part of Rodorigo, played by Sam Crane. He gave a beautifully detailed performance as the gullible, romantic, besotted fool, whom Iago easily parted from his money. To paraphrase how Steve saw it, this man had “loser” tattooed on his forehead at birth. He pouted, he snivelled, he flounced out, he despaired, he enthused, he did everything with such total presence that I can safely say this was the best Rodrigo we’re ever likely to get.

Another good performance came from Paul Lloyd as Othello’s servant, known to those of us who read programs as Clown. He kept up a running battle with the musicians, from the pre-opening where he attempts to make his “turn off your mobile phones”, etc. speech, through telling them to play the silent pieces only, and even after the interval, where they’re sitting on his basking spot. There wasn’t much to this part, but he gave us more than was there. Of course, the musicians fought back, and didn’t shut up when he yelled at them. His announcement was one of those stop/start duels with a trombonist that set us up nicely for the play itself, which is, after all, pretty dark.

Other than these, the performances were fine, but nothing special. Eamonn Walker as Othello wasn’t so clear as the others, and Tim McInnerny as Iago had that phlegm buzz to his voice when he upped the volume that made it harder to distinguish the words. Apart from that, I could hear most of the lines provided the actors weren’t pointed away from us, but as I said earlier, that happened rather too much for my liking. A lot of the staging seemed very static compared with other plays we’ve seen on this stage, and while that may be partly down to the play itself, I’m sure more could have been done to vary the actors’ movements.

Other points I noticed were that Cassio assumes Othello will send him to fetch Desdemona, and is effectively ignored by Othello when he sends Iago instead. Desdemona’s speech about the different loves she has for father and husband is equally applicable to Cordelia’s situation, and I found myself spotting several echoes of other plays. Amelia’s condemnation of men’s behaviour was roundly delivered, although the resulting mood change back to Desdemona’s sadness was a bit jarring.

The drinking scene was well done. The men sat round a table, and Iago leapt up onto his bench to sing a couple of silly songs, in English, apparently. The fights were good, and the scene where Rodrigo tries to kill Cassio was superb. They played it as if in a blackout (the wind was so strong at times that various lanterns and torches blew out anyway), so the fight was a slow motion grope rather than cut and thrust. Very entertaining. The final dance was also good fun, especially as Iago refused to join in, apart from a possible twitch of the shoulders at the end?

There were some other distractions that took my attention away from the stage, such as a flash going off, and one of the stewards in front of the stage doing some gesturing to another steward while Iago was giving us one of his scheming soliloquies. Most unfortunate timing. Also, the number of people coming and going was higher than last week, and as the door was right behind us, we were treated to a fair number of squeals and clatters during the play.

All in all, I was mostly not engaged by this production, but I’m glad I saw the good bits.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me