22 January 2014

Othello at Riverside Studios

There seems to have been a lot of Othello in London recently, always with a big name in the title role, but none of those tempted me while this production did.

I was probably persuaded by the "Film Noir" description but, as is always the way with these things, by the time I got to the theatre I had forgotten what the particular motivator was for seeing this production.

The main nod to Film Noir was in the setting with Othello moved to the 1950s. That time-shift and a song given as a prelude were the only concessions to modernity and this was the original script complete with all the familiar language, rhythms and references.

Despite the recent flurry of Othellos this was my first time apart, possibly, for some long-forgotten films or TV adaptations that I may have caught all or part of. I was aware of the gist of the plot but all the detail was refreshingly new to me.

Othello is a tense drama with much intrigue, passion and violence so it is well-suited to a theatre like the Riverside where the action happens almost in stabbing distance.

The play revolved around (in order of guilt) Desdemona the completely innocent victim, Othello the victim who is guilty of unfounded jealously and Iago the schemer who steers the drama towards its messy end for his own ends.

There were several other players along the way, some of whom became collateral damage.

The cast was uniformly excellent, including all the supporting characters.

Obviously most of the attention fell on the three protagonists and, for me, Peter Lloyd's Iago stood out, which was only right as he did drive all the action. Othello was beautifully played by Stefan Adegbola and he successfully made the transition from a proud and powerful general to a vengeful husband but he fell to Iago's spell and that made Iago the star.

The mechanics of the play, the set, costumes and transitions, were all neatly done, always doing enough to help the story along and never too much to distract from it.

It was an utterly fabulous performance on all fronts. I chose the right Othello to go and see.

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