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Stunning ‘Othello’


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Excellent directing and compelling performances from lead actors Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear give Othello new life in the National Theatre of Great Britain’s production. The 21st-century reproduction of William Shakespeare’s riveting tale was broadcast live to cinemas around the world through their National Theatre Live programme. This was done as part of the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

On Sunday, in an encore performance of Othello shown at the Palace Cineplex, Sovereign Centre, Liguanea, St Andrew, Jamaicans once again had the opportunity to see what is best described as incredible.

Instead of Shakespeare’s Venice, for the opening scenes director Nicholas Hytner opted for a more contemporary setting in London. His justification was that the change made it easier for his cast members, who are based in the United Kingdom. However, as in the original setting, the army is based in a foreign land.

In the pre-show interview, Hytner explained that he decided to stage Othellosimply because it is worth seeing and provides a window into the past.

When the curtains finally open, Iago (Rory Kinnear) is livid at being overlooked for a promotion. And, as the familiar story continues, it is revealed that General Othello (Adrian Lester), having been appointed commanding officer of a major military operation in Cyprus, chooses Cassio (Jonathan Bailey) as his lieutenant.

The older and more experienced Iago is hurt that he was not given the promotion. In a fit of jealous rage, he concocts and executes a plan that has the unsuspecting Othello taking drastic actions against his young wife, Desdemona (Olivia Vinall).

Relevant today as when it was first performed in the 17th century, the tragedy illustrates various degrees of love, but most of all, it shows the importance of trust in the army. No more was this evident than through Othello and Cassio’s expression of Iago’s love for, and honesty towards, them.

This was not lost on Hytner, who employed the knowledge of Jonathan Shaw as military adviser and the skills of Kate Waters as fight director. The result is unbelievable acting from the cast.

In their gestures and mannerisms, the talented cast, led by Kinnear and Lester, captured the essence of their characters. But, most of all, each actor delivered the 17th-century English dialogue with clarity. The placement of pauses, the correct inflection and appropriate tone complemented their physical interpretations of the script.

The ease with which Kinnear performed the obsessive Iago belied what must have been an intense preparation and execution of the role. Lester was perfect in his portrayal of the ever-emotive Othello, who loves and hates Desdemona simultaneously. From Othello’s retching in the toilet to raging confusion at his wife’s bedside and then becoming the commanding general, all were brilliantly demonstrated by Lester.

FABULOUS PERFORMANCES

There were also fantastic performances from Bailey, Vinall and Lyndsy Marshall, the last playing Emilia, Iago’s wife. With her character coming into her own towards the end of the play, Marshall was fabulous, especially when Emilia stood up to Iago.

Likewise, Vinall was fabulous in her portrayal of an innocent, yet devoted, wife. Bailey’s characterisation of the eager and youthful Cassio was amazing, especially in the fight scene during the first night on the base, when in a drunken stupor, he attacked one of his subordinates. This forced Othello to demote him.

Remaining true to its contemporary interpretation, the costumes of mainly army fatigues were more than appropriate. The set, which allowed for easy movement from one location to another, justly reinforced a stunning production.

The next encore performance to be presented by Palace will be Hamlet on Sunday, February 9.

 

 

[VIA – Jamaica Gleaner]

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