Sunday, 21 April 2013

Othello - National Theatre - Saturday 20 April ***

We were so looking forward to this one, Adrian Lester as the warrior Moor consumed by the green eyed monster when his duplicitous confidante Iago falsely informs him that his beautiful new wife Desdemona is making like the beast with two backs with his right hand man.

Contemporary updating places the action on an army base in Cyprus, stark beige rooms and concrete exterior walls with arc lights matched by desert fatigues. In fact the whole production is very beige.
With little in the way of excitement and, sorry Will, not much plot to speak of, its one saving grace is that is extremely easy to follow and understand. In fact so little happens that the entire play feels as if it could be a sub-plot in another of Shakespeare's more sophisticated dramas, despite the 3 hours 15 minutes running time.

Adrian Lester sounds grand but looks confused, especially when hiding in a toilet cubicle to overhear a “confession” from his wife’s supposed lover (really Nicholas Hytner would the great Othello, soldier since he was eight years old, be reduced to hiding in the bog?).

Rory Kinnear as Iago is exactly as you would expect Rory Kinnear’s Iago to be, matey but  bitter, his asides to the audience eliciting the occasional nervous titter from the Olivier stalls but never once giving us a glimpse as to what evil drives this man hell-bent on destroying all around him, friends and enemies alike.

Olivia Vinall’s Desdemona is a pretty but wet little thing bouncing around in espadrilles, too eager to please.

Only when Lyndsey Marshall as Iago’s feisty wife Emilia suddenly seizes control in act two do things take off and we finally witness some passion. Unfortunately it is too little too late and by now all that is going through my head is the cab journey home to pour myself a proper drink and catch doing his thing on Jonathan Ross.

Tickets to this are rarer than hen’s teeth so if you are giving yourself grief that you missed out, don’t worry you didn’t.

Booking until 18 August 2013 (may extend), it is all about colour, unfortunately that colour is beige - Othello


  1. I wasn't marvellously enamoured of Lester's performance. I thought he completely fudged the last scene which was rather stolen by a pair of skimpy knickers (many titters from the schoolkids in the audience). Kinnear was without fault though....

  2. Many thanks for posting Sam. I was underwhelmed by the entire production. I normally do love Rory Kinnear, but felt I'd seen him do it all before.

  3. This is too good to be true - I saw the play with my husband last week to a totally packed audience. we left the play completely underwhelmed and thought we were not normal as the play got raving reviews. I love your comments about the jumpy D in pretty espadrilles, gosh how annoying was she!

  4. So glad you are on same wavelength as me, do you think the raves were simply too in awe of the Lester/Kinnear/Hytner combo to be objective?