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Jealousy, Revenge and Death...
Othello - Theatre Royal Bath
Member Name: ps8sjk
Othello - Theatre Royal Bath
Advantages: Conrad Nelson
Disadvantages: Expectations were a bit high
I was lucky enough to be able to buy tickets to see Othello at the Bath theatre Royal. I love the theatre, I love Shakespeare (I have to - I am an English teacher) and the fact that Lenny Henry was playing Othello was very intriguing. He had always been a favourite entertainer of mine but this was far removed from what he is usually associated with.
Summary of the plot:
Othello, a general in Venice, appoints Cassio as his chief Lieutenant. Iago, filled with jealously, plots both their downfalls by falsely implicating Othello's wife, Desdemona and Cassio in an affair. This is Shakespeare so ends in tragedy and death.
A beautiful theatre which is perfect for Shakespeare, it is intimate enough so you can see the whole stage but was packed full to create an atmosphere - even in the standing places. The set was simple and fairly bleak but fitting for this play. It was cleverly designed so that despite the fact it changed places - even countries - it hardly had to change to make you believe where it was set. I was only a few rows back so was in a prime location.
The first few scenes I found myself anticipating Lenny Henry's entrance - the action doesn't start until Othello enters and I would suspect that was the main attraction drawing the crowds in. There was a lot of tension in the air and when he did make his first entrance the audience were still; it was almost eerie. He had stage presence as soon as he entered and his voice echoed around the theatre. He is an impressive man - you forget this is a well-loved comedian immediately and instead you are watching the powerful and mesmerising Othello. He towered over the rest of the actors which helped I think - although the cynic in me wondered if it had been deliberately cast that way! I had heard so many positive reviews about him as Othello that I think my expectations were high. So, was he any good? The short answer is yes, he was an outstanding Othello and seemed to fit the part very well. He is a very good actor. However - if I am being objective (and this is a review so I will be quite critical!) there were times when I felt he didn't quite meet the high expectations that had been set. I don't feel like he fully connected to the audience - he seemed to stare at the same point, high in the theatre too often, perhaps it was nerves a little but I didn't feel the intensity at all times. On a few occasions he had his back to the audience, although perhaps the director was to blame here. So although he was very good, I am not sure he was as impressive as some of the other more seasoned theatre actors.
Which leads me onto the actor who played Iago. He was played by Conrad Nelson who has starred in TV but is probably not known by most, I had not heard of him before but I think this is an actor to watch. He was simply incredible. He was an amazing actor that was so believable that his chilling performance gave me goosebumps. He is on stage for the majority of the play and when he was not there I eagerly anticipated his return. He showed all the different levels of the complicated character - you believed his jealous and treacherous side and he also showed his lighter and more jovial side; he made the audience laugh in the right places - one of my favourite scenes is the more humourous one when Iago begins his plot by ensuring Cassio gets drunk in a 'harmless' drinking game with the other soldiers. It was well choreographed and highly amusing which did break up the more serious side of the play. Conrad was also one of the composers and an associate director so he is a talented man and I hope to see a performance with him again. I cannot praise him enough and hope he wins some prestigious theatre award for his role as Iago.
Other notable performances were by Maeve Larkin (who played Emilia - Iago's wife who is unwittingly used to ensure the success of the plot). She was a very good actress who played a subtle role which became stronger throughout - you end up rooting for her as she turns on her husband and she realises what he has done. She is a strong female character in Shakespeare and that is always good to see! Cassio (Richard Standing) and the Duke (Fine Time Fontayne) also played an impressive role.
Jessica Harris (Desdemona) was a bit of a disappointment, so much so that my friend almost scowled every time she came one! She played the role as a very sweet-natured and happy young girl, practically skipping across the stage at times. While I do see Desdemona as innocent and sweet this was annoying at times and I would have liked to see more layers in this role, showing her strength of character as well, after all she defied her father's wishes by running away to marry Othello to begin with.
The Production as a whole:
This was produced by a northern company called the 'Northern Broadsides and West Yorkshire Playhouse' so the performances used northern accents. This was a bit disconcerting at times but you did become accustomed to it and I am sure the original Elizabethan plays did not use Italian accents so it did feel authentic.
This was an incredible night at the theatre and perhaps my expectations were a little high. Only a few weeks before I had seen 'Waiting for Godot' with Ian McKellen so perhaps after seeing one of the best theatre actors in the world (in my opinion) had raised the bar somewhat! I would recommend this and would say that it would be a good introduction to anyone who hasn't seen a Shakespeare play before, the plot is fairly simple and this is a good production.
Summary: A great Shakespeare play
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