I said it before, I’ll say it again: I wished I hadn’t seen Othello in London – the one with the brilliant Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear as psychopatical calm killer in a production that was set in some modern day anonymous war. because then I might just have enjoyed this Othello a little bit more.
First the things I really liked in Stratford’s production: I liked the deconstructed stage with its moving platform as the only prop they used aside from the odd pillow or candle, it really made you focus on Shakespeare’s beautiful words and the way the actors delivered them. I also loved the period costuming that once again showed great love for detail and brought back Shakespeare’s world.
And I really really liked Graham Abbey’s interpretation of Iago. Where Kinnear was an analytical psychopath, clinical, dangerous with no emotions, Abbey’s Iago is driven by passion, frustration and rejection, feelings I can relate so much better to than the more clinical (but not less scary) approach of Kinnear.
I then had the pleasure of listening to Abbey, Dion Johnston and Desdemona during a lecture and I found Abbey’s explanations of Iago – the way he is going from plan a to plan b and the next and the next and still is in charge of the whole operation – till the very last moments, when he makes one decision that is wrong for him – he sends his wife – while all the while he was so successful in keeping everyone from ever simply talking together – not only highly entertaining but also very enlightening.
So this could have been a thoroughly enjoyable play, you say? Yes, could have. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to “get” Othello at all. first of all they gave him a Caribbean accent (why???? in Shakespeare’s times surely the Moors he saw were from Africa!) so every time I didn’t look at Othello while he was speaking I saw dreadlocks and a big fat pot cigarette – yo, Man. Why they gave him that accent I never found out but found it highly distracting. After Johnston’s Caliban in the Tempest I had been looking forward to seeing his Othello, but was a good bit unimpressed and put off, sigh
And while Lester managed to give his Othello the depth of a man thoroughly damaged by war and not able to deal with even the most basic feelings of love, of doubt, Johnston – to me – was never able to lift the character out of a situation of domestic violence gone horribly wrong, “Aided” in this he unfortunately was by his Desdemona, Bethany Jillard, who in the lecture I saw described the violence as being about love – and only because this was live streaming I kept from jumping up and screaming, noooo it’s not love, it’s domestic violence!!! Interesting that I didn’t have that feeling in the London production at all…
Back to the positive things:
Graham Abbey turns out to be a highly intelligent person who is quite funny as well. Very lovely at the stage door (where Scott Wentworth had just seen Othello as well and was standing there waiting for them to come out. not intimidating at all – yeah right), So I brought chocolates to the talk – which he accepted, then positioned them in the middle of his table and said into the cameras – just so you all see: I’m such a nice guy (implying aside from playing Iago as he had been teased mercilessly before intermission) I even get chocolates!!