Othello

At the National Theatre

Truth be told, before I took my seat on the 5th August eager to submit myself completely to another of Shakespeare’s treasures, my knowledge of the characters was sketchy to say the least and my appreciation of the storyline was a definitive Blackhole.

What? Why?

Well…my awareness of a couple of the characters goes way back, back to the early 1980s in fact, as I’d had an above average addiction to the TV series FAME and during one treat of an episode, Leroy, the hot one who’d wear mesh midriffs, bagged the role of Othello and sweet, shy, Julie Miller the Cellist, secured the role of Desdemona.  Aside from that, my recollections of the play aren’t actually there – though Leroy; small in stature Danny Amatullo; and super mover Coco will always be.

Additionally, high school English had only introduced me to Hamlet and Henry IV Part One and I guess I just hadn’t got around to…maybe I was scared…in retrospect…I was terrified.

So to the show: No doubt everyone who’s reading me knows the detail, so I shan’t hold back.

It was horrifying and ‘Honest Iago’ – horrible, intensely horrible.

And how I mentioned ‘terrified’, let’s discuss it in the present tense, for it’s ‘terrifying’ that just a small, tiny, evil seed can be sowed so simply, then so cleverly nurtured, impact so hugely and destroy so fiercely.

Mr Rory Kinnear, he who plays Iago, had me feeling nauseous from the outset. For everything about him was creepy and untrustworthy. I can just imagine when they were casting, the Director must have beamed from ear to ear, pleased in the knowledge he’d found the most convincing evildoer in audition history.

And Mr Adrian Lester, he who plays Othello, you poor trusting fool. You really did put all your eggs in the wrong basket.  I pity you, am sickened by you, will learn from your heart wrenchingly disturbing example and was blown away by your presence, command of the stage and talent.

And Mr Jonathan Bailey, he who plays Cassio, I’m so, so sorry. I really hope that never happens to you again. And I guess on the bright side, you lived. Again, a top casting call-out.

And a final mention on the super talented, well casted actor front..actually a double call-out…Olivia Vinall (she who plays Desdemona) and Lyndsey Marshal (she who plays Emilia). The beauty of your singing voices, your very convincing portrayals of two fine women treated so harshly, or put another way – your first-rate performances – an absolute pleasure to be party too.

Furthermore, the staging of this evolving tragedy was supreme. From the concrete walls, flood lights, barred wire/steel gates surrounding something comparable to a Camp Bastion, through to the washhouse and demountable office space which were bare, soulless and purely functional. All artfully benefitting the plot and sadness unravelling. Even the Mess and sleeping quarters lacked human warmth, further supporting key themes such as the acute (and chronic) breakdown of love, trust and loyalty.

Additionally, the use of loud, pounding, thick on base, techno music and costume – in particular the modern day army kit utilised – further placed the audience somewhere far removed from comfort, loaded in testosterone, intense and ‘on edge’.

Ohh and when it was all over… I lurched to my feet, squealing and pounding my hands together in an attempted rhythmical pattern of gratitude. This production was/is formidable all fronts.

And finally, big thanks to Mr Mark Lawson, for if I haven’t tuned into you as I drove out to collect one not so small chap back on the 24 April, I would have quite possibly stayed in the dark and not experienced every single moment of this fabulous show.

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