Othello at the Old Rep

Apparently I’m becoming cultured … at least that’s what Amanda seems to think! :p Several of us went to see The Birmingham Stage Company’s excellent performance of Othello last night.

It was a wonderful production that was wonderfully performed, by an excellent cast. As the play begins you immediately realise that it isn’t set in Venice back in 1604, instead, director John Harrison chose to dress the play for a time roughly around World War One:

I also wanted to place the story firmly in a time when it was certainly not done for a nicely brought up white girl to marry a black man, however eminent. We took the decision to dress it somewhere just before World War One.

Actually whilst I’m writing this, and transcribing John Harrison’s, comment above I just burst out laughing because it reminded me of something Rob jokingly suggested to me at lunch yesterday … when asking me when I was going to find myself a woman! (roflmao).

It’s no secret that I love the works of Shakespeare. I spent a lot of time reading his collected works when I was younger and even to this day I can still recite, at will, large portions of some of them – something that does become quite annoying when I see one of his plays live at the theater because I unconsciously start reciting the words .. which usually results in someone elbowing me in the ribs telling me to sssshhh :p fortunately I wasn’t that bad last night apart from when Othello who is getting ready to murder Desdemona  and says:

When I have pluck'd the rose, 
I cannot give it vital growth again. 
It must needs wither

It’s immortal stuff … 🙂

As for this production, whilst Cyril Nri is excellent in the title role, its Neal Foster‘s performance as Iago that stole the show for me. Iago is the villain of the piece, and unusually for one of Shakespeare’s play’s, it’s Iago that has the most lines in this play. It’s Iago that manipulates all the other characters in the play trapping them in an intricate web of lies, to avenge himself upon Othello for promoting Cassio ahead of himself. I’ve always thought that Iago was one of Shakespeare’s most malevolent villains and yet his ability to manipulate those around him was made all the more potent because of his charm, intelligence and wit – in this regard Foster’s performance is truly inspired his Iago exudes these qualities throughout and reveals the characters true malevolence for his soliloquies … one such example was when Foster delivered these lines:

I have't. It is engender'd. Hell and night
Must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.

With reference to the character Iago I found something quite interesting in the Programme for this production, it contains a two page spread describing The Nature of Pyschopathy, it lists Dr Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist in detail … and then at the end after describing this checklist it simply says … .”Around four hundred years ago, before this checklist was published, William Shakespeare wrote a character called Iago.“.

The Birmingham Stage Company deserves great credit for putting on such a memorable production of one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies! If you can get to watch this play when it tours around the UK, then I defenitly recommend it!

3 thoughts on “Othello at the Old Rep

  1. I went to see Othello at Birmingham rep and was delighted with the whole performance but in particular the part of Amelia played by Emma Christer. She had me on the edge of my seat during the final scenes. I found her performance powerful, emotional and quite unforgettable. Although the part of Amelia is not a leading role, her performance is the one that I shall always remember. Well done to all the cast, a memorable evening all round and highly recommended .

  2. Diane,

    Your absolutely right, Emma Christer’s performance was mesmerizing – she certainly had me on the edge of my seat as well during that last scene , she conveyed such raw emotion that it was truly unforgettable … right up to the moment of Amelia’s death … brilliant!

  3. I have to say that I agree with both of you; Christer’s performance was highly beleivable, and all the more stunning for it.

    I would say though, that it was both a dissapointment and a surprising delight to see Iago so strong, and, in comparison, Othello so weak. For some reason I had always imagined that Othello would need to be played as a good, strong man. I guess I must have too much of Iago in me – I found myself completely empathising with him at certain points.

    Eh – not that I’m a psychopath… I think…

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